At the end of World War II, there were many social welfare organizations in Detroit and other cities competing for funds to support their welfare activities. Some of the more successful ones worked out agreements with major employers so that workers could donate a share of their earnings to these charitable organizations. The competition for dollars was lively, leading organizations to suggest that their good works were much better done or accomplished at lower cost than rivals. The idea arose that it would be excellent to merge the fund-raising activities of these organizations into one united drive. In 1949, Detroit became the first major city to organize a United Way fund raising drive.
To bring attention to their efforts, the organizers built a wooden structure in the median of Woodward near Jefferson with a torch at the top. During their campaign season in the fall, the torch was lit to symbolize the United Way Torch Drive. After the fund raising for one year was completed, the wooden torch structure was disassembled and then erected anew the following year. After doing this for a score of years, Dario Bonucchi was commissioned to design the structure that you see. It is three feet wide, rests upon a base of height 7.6 feet and extends upward for 12 feet. The exterior was first sandblasted to create a matte finish. That was then coated with epoxy lacquer to maintain the highly glossy appearance that you see.
Date of dedication: October 14, 1969
Sculptor: Dario Bonucchi
City of Detroit Local Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Not listed
Use in 2005: This sculpture continues to bring attention to the United Way campaign.
Photograph: Andrew Chandler; Summer, 2004