The Peruna Monument — 1937

by Paula Bosse

owen_peruna_monument_flickrMichael G. Owen’s Peruna monument today, SMU campus (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When Peruna — SMU’s beloved Shetland pony that served as the Mustangs’ first live mascot — died in 1934, there was an immediate call to erect a memorial monument over the little horse’s grave, but it wasn’t until 1937 that a serious push to raise funds and find the right sculptor for the project actually began.

owen_peruna_monument_dmn_021137(Dallas Morning News, Feb. 11, 1937)

The commission went to young Michael G. Owen, Jr., who, at only 21, was the same age as many of the students who were hiring him. (It has been erroneously reported that Owen attended SMU, but he did not.) Owen was well-known within the Dallas art community and had made a mark for himself as something of an artistic prodigy — as a teenager, he had been on the periphery of the movement that spawned the Dallas Nine group of Regionalist artists, and he had  been mentored by many of the older artists, most notably Jerry Bywaters.

owen_peruna_smu-article_050537SMU Semi-Weekly Campus, May 5, 1937

Owen worked quickly and completed the memorial — which was six feet long and four feet high and carved from 2,800 pounds of hard limestone — in time for the unveiling just outside Ownby Stadium on May 19, 1937.

peruna unveiled_dmn_052037owen_peruna_unveiled_dmn_052037cDMN, May 20, 1937

The result was a quietly emotional — and even a very sweet — monument depicting the small, slumbering horse atop a stone slab. Jerry Bywaters wrote a glowing review of the piece, even though he seems a bit taken aback to find what he called “a memorial to a midget horse” on a college campus to be “one of the best pieces of memorial sculpture in the State.”

owen_peruna_bywaters_dmn_052337Jerry Bywaters, DMN, May 23, 1937

When Ownby Stadium was demolished and the new Ford Stadium built, the Peruna I monument was moved to the new stadium where it has become a memorial to all the Perunas.

owen_peruna-memorial_wiki_1944With Peruna III, during WWII (Wikipedia)

owen_peruna-statue_1950-degolyer-DET1950 (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

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Top photo by David Steele, from Flickr, here.

Photos and articles from The Dallas Morning News as noted.

Article from SMU’s The Semi-Weekly Campus (May 5, 1937, p. 3), here.

Photo of Peruna III with sailors from the Peruna page on Wikipedia, here.

Bottom photo (cropped) of the Peruna monument from the DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University, here.

Previous Flashback Dallas posts on Mike Owen:

  • “Give a 15-Year Old 8,400 Pounds of Soap and He’ll Carve You a Radio Transmitter — 1930” is here.
  • “Michael G. Owen, Jr. — Dallas Sculptor of Lead Belly” — is here.

The previous post on the untimely demise of Peruna is here.

And, finally, a PDF containing various newspaper sources in researching the life and career of Michael G. Owen, Jr. is here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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