Roscoe Conkling

  • Sculptor: John Quincy Adams Ward
  • Dedicated: 1893
  • Medium and size: Bronze (5.8 feet), granite pedestal (6.5 feet)
  • Location: Southeast corner of Madison Square, near Madison Avenue and 23rd Street
  • Subway: 6, N, R, W to 23rd Street


Who Are You?

It worried me that I couldn’t evaluate Conkling from contemporary accounts, so in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan, I turned the Conkling essay into a discussion of how knowledge affects one’s perception of works of art. I would have been much less confused about Conkling had Candice Millard’s riveting Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President been published a few years earlier.

Puzzle box

Above: Reading Millard made “The Great Presidential Puzzle Box” much more comprehensible.

Conkling was a frequent subject of political cartoons. Here he is, looking remarkably similar toWard's sculpture. The caption reads,

Unto that Power he doth belong
Which only doeth Right 
while ever willing Wrong. 
– Goethe's Faust.


Above: Drawn by Joseph Keppler, published in Puck in 1877 (context explained here).  

John Quincy Adams Ward

As a young man, John Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910) worked with Henry Kirke Brown on the Washington at Union Square, dedicated in 1856. Far earlier than his contemporaries, War believed American sculptors should present American ideas and be trained in America: he never studied abroad. He was the leading American sculptor for fifty-odd years, known as the "Dean of American Sculpture." Indian Hunter, 1869 (Central Park, near the Mall), established his reputation.

Manhattan has Washington, Greeley, Holley, Conkling, Dodge and Shakespeare, as well as the Seventh Regiment Memorial, 1869(Central Park, West Drive at 67th Street) and the Pilgrim, 1885 (Central Park, east end of the 72nd-Street Traverse). The original sculptures of the New York Stock Exchange pediment were Ward's, but they've been replaced with copies. Brooklyn has Henry Ward Beecher, 1891 (Columbus Park). 

Cross References

  • The description of the blizzard is by Jose Marti, who laid the groundwork for Cuban independence at his headquarters in New York.
  • Shown at Union Square, the location where Conkling caught his death of cold and where his sculpture was not erected: Washington, LincolnLafayette. One of Ward’s first projects had been working with Henry Kirke Brown on Washington at Union Square. 
  • Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan includes more discussion of Conkling's sculpture and more on Conkling's actions as a politician, plus an excerpt from the New York Herald's obituary of him (1888).

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante