Samuel Gompers

Statue: Samuel Gompers (January 27, 1850 – December 13, 1924)
Location: Massachusetts Avenue, NW, between 10th and 11 Streets
Dedication: October 8, 1933, 10AM

Samuel Gompers was born in England where he was educated. When he was 13 his family moved to New York City. His father was a cigar maker, and Samuel became a cigar maker, too. At the at of 14 Gompers became involved with the Cigarmaker’s Local Union. In 1875 he was elected president of Cigarmaker’s International Union Local 144.

In 1881, Gompers helped found the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which was, in 1886, reorganized into the American Federation of Labor. Gompers was elected the first president of the AFL. He served as president, except for one year, until his death in 1924.

After Gompers death a memorial foundation was formed, headed by the AFL, to create a monument to Gompers. In 1928, Congress approved a monument to Gompers. The memorial foundation raised the money.

This memorial was designed by Robert Aitken of New York City for the triangular plot of land at Eleventh street and Massachusetts avenues, near the original AFL headquarters. The statue construction began in 1931 after Aiken’s plans were approved.

Interestingly when the memorial was being pieced together there was a dispute with the iron workers. The union of iron workers had recently created a four-hour day for iron workers in order to employ twice as many men. Essentially the 8 hours shifts were split. In order to get the work completed on the Gompers memorial but also on the Archives building, the Department of Justice and the Government heating plant – all being constructed at the same time – exceptions were made to the new union rules.

The Gompers Monument is a group of statuary, with some figures in bronze. It is 16-feet high. In the middle of the memorial is Samuel Gompers. He is surrounded by symbolic statues representing labor, the home, education, justice, and liberty. The two figures behind him represent labor greeting each other, Justice and Liberty are standing behind Labor, and a mother kneeling with a baby represent “Home.”

The memorial cost approximately $100,000 raised by the memorial foundation.

The ceremony was held at 10am Saturday, October 8, 1933, with President Franklin D. Roosevent and William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, addressing the crowd. There were about 8,000 people who attended the unveiling.

President F.D. Roosevelt began his address to the crowd by saying,

“It is fitting that in the Capital of the Nation a statue should stand through the ages, to remind future generations of the services to that Nation of a patriot who served his country well.”

He concluded by saying,

“Like the duly constituted officials of your Government, we must put and we are putting unselfish patriotism first. That would have been the order of Samuel Gompers is he were with us today.”

In 1983 a movement was started by the metropolitan labor council to refurbish the memorial to Samuel Gompers. The same fundraising campaign also included a proposal to erect a memorial to A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who died in 1979. Although the Gompers memorial was cleaned and the park area refurbished in the early 2000s, a memorial to A. Philip Randolph has not been added to the park.


  • Unions Seek to Refurbish Gompers Statue, The Washington Post, 25 Nov 1983: B3
  • Evening Star, October 3, 1933
  • Evening Star, November 7, 1930

Fort Leslie McNair

Fort McNair was built in 1791, and is the third oldest Army installation in continuous use since the founding of the United States. The other two are West Point and Carlisle barracks, Carlisle, Pa. The installation has been an arsenal, a penitentiary, a hospital, a troop training post, and now a center for higher education.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson, that Fort McNair is part of, created a walking tour brochure that can be found at:

Each year Joint Base Myer-Henderson holds a quarterly Public Open House of Grant Hall so visitors can access the grounds and see the Grant Hall courtroom and museum.

Click on the gallery link below to see a photo tour with captions of Ft. McNair from August 5.


Statue: Maine Lobsterman
Location: Southwest waterfront
Placement: 1983
Sculptor: Victor Kahill
Cost to Taxpayers: $0, $30,000 raised by Camp Fire Girls of Cundys Harbor, Maine

A bronze statue of a Maine lobsterman is located on Maine Avenue in Southwest on the Potomac waterfront in Washington. This statue is a gift from Maine.

In 1939 Victor B. Kahill, a Lebanese immigrant, completed the model of a life-size figure representing a Maine lobsterman which occupied a prominent place in the Maine section of the Hall of States at the World’s Fair in New York City. The state couldn’t afford a bronze statue so Kahill painted his plaster model a bronze color.

The state later cast three bronze replicas of the statue. The first was placed in Portland’s Canal Plaza, the second was paid for by residents of Johnson’s hometown raised and placed there, and the third casting is the statue in Washington, D.C.

After the fair closed the statue was moved to city hall in Portland, Maine. However, it was soon moved again to the basement of City Hall to protect it from vandals. In 1958, it was repaired and put on display at Maine’s Department of Sea and Shore Fisheries’ Marine Museum and Aquarium at Boothbay Harbor.

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About the Sculptor and Subject

Victor Kahill, and his older brother Joseph, were born in Beirut, Lebanon. Victor became a sculptor and came to America in 1909. He studied art, and fought for the United States in World War I. Victor was able to bring his brother to America with money he made as an artist. Victor died in San Francisco in 1965.

The artist, at his death, bequeathed the statue to Maine’s Department of Sea and Shore Fisheries.

The model for the statue was Elroy Johnson, a lobsterman born on Bailey’s Island in Harpswell, Maine, in 1894, and he died in September 1973.

Johnson was quoted as saying,”Mr. Kahill said the way he had me kneeling was more statuesque. If the Legislature sees fit to send it to Washington, who am I to complain? If they put it down on the waterfront there, I’d like to be buried beneath it. I always said I’d like the thing for a tombstone anyway.”

The statue is seven-feet high and placed on a pedestal of Maine granite. It depicts Johnson as a lobsterman, stooped and putting a peg into a lobster claw.

Overall dimensions of the memorial would be approximately 10 feet wide by seven feet long and seven feet high.

In 1979 then U.S. Senator (and later Secretary of State under Carter) Edmund Muskie of Maine, proposed placement of the “Maine Lobsterman” statue in Washington, D.C. On September 4, 1980 Congress passed the resolution (PL 96-337) permitting the Camp Fire Girls of Cundys Harbor, Maine, to erect “The Maine Lobsterman” memorial in the District of Columbia.

The cost of the statue and its transportation were donated by the Camp Fire unit that had raised $30,000 for the memorial.

NOTE: Currently the Southwest waterfront is undergoing extensive development. The development, called The Wharf, required the removal the “Maine Lobsterman.” However, according to Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post, Senator Collins of Maine, and Del Eleanor Holmes Norton of DC introduced legislation that protects the Lobsterman’s location along the Southwest waterfront.

NOTE (June 15, 2018 update): The Lobsterman has been reinstalled at the Wharf in SW and moved closer to the Fish Market at beginning of Marketplace Pier.



Lobsterman Is Eyed for Maine Avenue, By John R Wiggins. The Washington Post, Times Herald, June 11, 1967.
A New Statue: Lobsterman’ to be Erected on the Waterfront, by Paul Hodge, The Washington Post. Feb 5, 1981.
Lobsterman Arrives in D.C., Eisen, Jack. The Washington Post, June 16, 1983.
The Maine Lobsterman, Shawna Merserve., June 3, 2013.

Benjamin Franklin

Statue: Benjamin Franklin
Location: 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Dedication: January 17, 1889, 10:00 AM
Designer: Ernst Plassman, New York City
Sculptor: Jacques Jouvenal
Designer of the Pedestal: J.F. Manning, Washington, DC
Cost to Taxpayers: $0, donation by Stilson Hutchins

The statue of Benjamin Franklin was cut from a single block of Carrara marble and is 8 feet 6 inches high. Standing on a pedestal of Massachusetts granite that is 11 feet 2 inches tall – the statue is almost 20 feet tall.

The statue took almost five years to make, and was a gift to the City of Washington from Stilson Hutchins of The Washington Post. Hutchins offered the statue to the City of Washington in 1888, and the District Commissioners accepted it. The District Commissioners then requested permission from Congress, who approved the resolution.

On October 4, 1888, the pedestal and statue were placed at the “small reservation at the intersection of D and Tenth and Pennsylvania Avenue NW just west of the banking house of Lewis Johnson & Co.” However, the statue wasn’t “unveiled” until Franklin’s birthday the following year on January 17.

The dedication ceremony was held on the 183rd anniversary of Franklin’s birth. The unveiling was done by Mrs. M.W. Emory who was the great granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin.

The statue is similar to the bronze Franklin Statue in front of Printing House Square in New York City. The statue was designed by Ernst Plassman who designed the New York City Franklin statue.

Jacque Jouvenal, the sculptor, cut the Franklin statue in Washington at his studio that was located for many years on the north side of D and 10th Streets, NW.

The statue shows Franklin with his right hand raised, and in his left hand is a rolled-up manuscript. At the base of his right foot is a pile of books with one open volume. The coat that Franklin is depicted wearing has a fur lined collar and is, according to The Washington Post, a “studied reproduction of a garment known to have been worn by Franklin when he appeared before the court of France, at Versailles, on the occasion of the ratification of the treaty between France and the United States following the recognition of the Republic of Great Britain.”

The pedestal has four sides, on which are inscribed in raised granite letters the following: Printer, Philosopher, Patriot, Philanthropist. On the south side, directly under the base of the statue, is the name FRANKLIN.


Erected January 17, 1889
Ernst Plassman, Designer
Jacques Jouvenal, Sculptor
J.F. Manning Designer of the Pedestal

And Hutchins, as reported in The Washington Post, believed that “[George] Washington was the greatest character in the revolutionary epoch or in the arduous struggle succeeding it, and that the can be no question that Franklin stood second to Washington, and that, just like Washington, our independence and our liberties are due to Franklin.”


Statue of Benjamin Franklin: A Joint Resolution Authorizing the Commissioners to Select a Site for it Passes the Senate, The Evening Star, June 21, 1888.

Franklin’s Statue: It is Unveiled Today; Mr. Hutchin’s Gift to the City. The Evening Star. January 17, 1888.