Four years after Adam Beck’s death, Toronto City Council began to deliberate how best to memorialize the man who was, at the time, Ontario’s best loved civil servant. They finally settled on a design competition for a memorial statue to be installed on University Avenue in the downtown core of the city.
Emmanuel Hanhn, a German who moved with his family to Toronto in 1888, beat out Alfred Howell and G.A. Bachman for the commission. Hanhn was a sculptor and coin designer who first worked with Walter Seymour Allward, as a studio assistant on the South African War Memorial that faces the Beck Memorial from across Queen Street. Hahn would go on to create the several memorials including the St-Lambert Cenotaph and the Salvationists Memorial to the members lost in the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland in 1916. Hahn would also design several coins for the Royal Canadian Mint including the Voyageur Dollar (1936-1968), the Bluenose 10 cent piece and the Caribou Head for the Canadian quarter. Hanhn also served as Head of the Sculpture Department at the Ontario College of Art until he retired in 1951.
The Adam Beck Memorial was by far the most important commission that Hahn had ever received. It came after he lost the commission to create a war memorial for the city of Winnipeg in 1925 after it was revealed that he was of German ancestry. His ancestral roots caused a national scandal and resulted in the award being withdrawn not only from him, but for his wife, Elizabeth Wyn Wood. A sculptor in her own right, Wyn Wood had also entered the competition and was awarded second place.
The memorial was originally supposed to be located in front of the 1915 location of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario building (now the location of Princess Margaret Hospital), but because it would impede access to the Toronto General Hospital, it was relocated to the University Avenue median on the south side of Queen. Adam Beck would not only face north towards the organization he founded, but to the legislature representing the people to whom he dedicated so much of his life and energy.
The statue was unveiled by Toronto mayor William James Stewart in 1934.
The title for this piece comes from The Polecats’ electrifying 1981 single, Make a Circuit with Me.