Max Robert Decker painted May the Spirit of 1776 Live On in 1937, and it has been hanging in the Independence Park field house since that time. Relating to the park’s name, the large painting portrays a fallen revolutionary war soldier whose ghostly spirit ascends holding the hand of a female figure. The scene includes a colonial American flag draped behind the figures, with a battlefield on one side of the background and the famous tower of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on the other side.
Born in Indiana, Max Robert Decker (1879–1963) attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago between 1901–1904 and 1909–1910. His career as a professional artist included working as a china painter and a lamp maker. Decker lived only about a mile or so west of Independence Park, and by the late 1930s, he was the park’s art instructor. Decker and another local artist named Lawrence Porth established a group called the Independence Park Artist’s League. Formed to encourage amateur artists, the league met regularly and held exhibits in the park’s Women’s Community Club Building.
Over the years, May the Spirit of 1776 Live On deteriorated. In 2005, the Chicago Conservation Center conducted a thorough treatment of the painting, which including cleaning it, stabilizing cracks in the surface, and mending a tear in the canvas.