Horace Greeley

  • Sculptor: John Quincy Adams Ward
  • Pedestal: Richard Morris Hunt
  • Dedicated: 1890
  • Medium and size: Bronze (6.5 feet), granite pedestal (6.5 feet)
  • Location: City Hall Park, near the City Hall subway entrance
  • Subway: 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge - City Hall, or J, M Z to Chambers Street

Greeley

Greeley Describes New York in 1831

NY 1824

Above: New York in 1824

Greeley’s Recollections of a Busy Life is one of the outstanding American autobiographies of the 19th century. Here’s Greeley describing his first sight of New York, in 1831:

New York was then about one third of her present size; but her business was not one fourth so great as now; and her real size - counting her suburbs, and considering the tens of thousands who find employment in and earn subsistence here, though sleeping outside of her chartered limits - was not one fifth that of 1867. No single railroad pointed toward her wharves. No line of ocean steamers brought passengers to her hotels, nor goods to her warehouses, from any foreign port. In the mercantile world, her relative rank was higher, but her absolute importance was scarcely greater, than that of Rio [de] Janeiro or San Francisco is today. Still, to my eyes, which had never till yesterday gazed on a city of even 20,000 inhabitants, nor seen a sea-going vessel, her miles square of mainly brick or stone houses, and her furlongs of masts and yards, afforded ample incitement to a wonder and admiration akin to awe. ...

The Winter was a hard one, and business in New York stagnant to an extent not now conceivable. I think it was early in December, when a 'cold snap' of remarkable severity closed the Hudson, and sent up the price of coal at a bound to $16 per ton, while the cost of other necessaries of life took a kindred but less considerable elevation. Our city stood as if besieged till Spring relieved her; and it was much the same every Winter.  ...

The earnings of good mechanics did not average $8 per week in 1831-32, while they are now double that sum; and living is not twice as dear as it then was. Meat may possibly be; but Bread is not; Fuel is not; Clothing is not; while travel is cheaper; and our little cars have enabled working-men to live two or three miles from their work without serious cost or inconvenience; thus bringing Yorkville or Green Point practically as near to Maiden Lane or Broad Street as Greenwich or the Eleventh Ward was. Winter is relatively dull now, but not nearly so stagnant as it formerly was. - Greeley, Recollections of a Busy Life, 1868

Greeley by Nast

Above: Greeley as shown by caricaturist / cartoonist Thomas Nast, 1872 

Greeley on Relying on One's Own Judgment

In an 1842 letter to Thurlow Weed, Greeley proudly asserted:

You have been pleased on several occasions to take me to task for differing from you, as though such differences were an evidence not merely of weakness on my part but of some black ingratitude or heartless treachery. I cannot realize that there have been any series of obligations between us which render it proper in you to assume so complete a mastery over my opinions and actions. … I have given you and I have been ever ready to give you any service in my power, but my understanding, my judgment, my consciousness of conviction, of duty and public good - them I can surrender to no man. You wrong yourself in asking. However deep my obligations I cannot pay in these. I am ever ready to defer to your superior experience and judgment - only convince me, but do not assume to dictate or lecture me. Do not ask me to forget that I, too, am a man - that I must breathe free air or be stifled. ... I owe what little chance for usefulness that I may have to the impression that I do no man’s bidding but speak my own thoughts. – Horace Greeley, Letter to Thurlow Weed, 1842

John Quincy Adams Ward

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

Greeley on Lincoln

From Greeley's Recollections of a Busy Life:

There are those who say that Mr. Lincoln was fortunate in his death as in his life: I judge otherwise. I hold him most inapt for the leadership of a people involved in desperate, agonizing war; while I deem few men better fitted to guide a nation’s destinies in time of peace. Especially do I deem him eminently fitted to soothe, to heal, and to reunite in bonds of true, fraternal affection a people just lapsing into peace after years of distracting, desolating internal strife. His true career was just opening when an assassin’s bullet quenched his light of life. Mr. Lincoln entered Washington the victim of a grave delusion. A genial, quiet, essentially peaceful man, trained in the ways of the bar and the stump, he fully believed that there would be no civil war, - no serious effort to consummate Disunion. His faith in Reason as a moral force was so implicit that he did not cherish a doubt that his Inaugural Address, whereon he had bestowed much thought and labor, would, when read throughout the South, dissolve the Confederacy as frost is dissipated by vernal sun. I sat just behind him as he read it, on a bright, warm, still March day, expecting to hear its delivery arrested by the crack of a rifle aimed at his heart; but it pleased God to postpone the deed, though there was forty times the reason for shooting him in 1860 that there was in ’65, and at least forty times as many intent on killing or having him killed. -- Greeley, Recollections of a Busy Life, p. 404

Cross References

  • Alexander Doyle’s sculpture of Greeley is at Herald Square, near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 32nd St. Three blocks north is the Bennett Memorial, a group of Athena and two Bell Ringers. They originally topped the headquarters of the New York Herald, run by James Gordon  Bennett, Jr., who compared Greeley unfavorably to a squash.
  • Ward’s Greeley was designed for a niche in the facade of the New York Tribune’s headquarters, which was (or wasn’t) one of New York’s earliest skyscrapers: see the Hunt Memorial.
  • Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan includes more on the details of the sculpture and its original setting, plus more on Greeley's career as a newspaperman and politician.

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante