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.

John Marshall

Statue: John Marshall (1755 – 1835), Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Location: John Marshall Park, 4th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Dedication: May 10, 1884, original statue
Dedication: May 10, 1983, John Marshall Place Park and replica statue
Sculptor: William Wetmore Story

Memorial Fund

John Marshall died in Philadelphia on July 6, 1835. The next day the Philadelphia bar association met and resolved to erect a monument to John Marshall for the people of the United States. The memorial fund was created and subscriptions were collected including contributions of $10 by the Philadelphia bar members. A total of $3,000 was collected in 1835.

The $3,000 was not sufficient to support the design and creation of a monument and was therefore invested in city bonds of Philadelphia with subsequent accrued interest reinvested in bonds.

The committee’s work stopped.

The idea of a statue to John Marshall was eventually revived. And in 1882 Senator Johnson, of Virginia, introduced a resolution for a statue to John Marshall in the Nation’s Capital. The resolution passed.

It was at this time that there was a discovery in Philadelphia of the Marshall memorial fund.

45 years had passed since the Marshall memorial committee had collected $3,000 dollars from Philadelphia bar members. When the committee had deemed that amount insufficient for the purposes of building a memorial, the funds had been put aside and into a fund package. By the time the Congressional resolution for a national memorial to John Marshall passed  the funds had increased in value to $20,000. The funds were re-designated for the memorial.

Congress passed the resolution for a memorial on March 10, 1882, with Congress appropriating $20,000 and the Philadelphia bar donating $20,000 for the memorial fund.

Placement of original statue

The bronze statue of John Marshall first Chief Justice of the United States, was unveiled on the Capitol grounds on May 10, 1884. The statue was originally placed on the foot of the west entrance of the Capitol.

In 1940 the House of Representatives suggested transferring the John Marshall statue from the Capitol grounds to a site near the new Supreme Court building, but the statue wasn’t moved until 1982. It was moved to the Supreme Court Building in February 1982.

Description of statue

The statue depicts John Marshall seated in a chair wearing a judicial robe that drapes to his feet. His hand is outstretched as if he is delivering an opinion. The front of the base bears the inscription:

John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States.

Erected by the members of the bar and Congress. A.D. 1884

The side panels are 6′ by 6′ in length and 2′ x 9″ in height, with figures over 2′ in height.

The rear of the pedestal is marked with an ornate wreath of oak and laurels. One either side are allegorical figures, with the right-hand side entitled, “Minerva dictating the constitution to Young America,” and the left-hand side entitled “Victory Leading Young America to Swear Fidelity on the Alter of the Union.”

The sculptor was William Wetmore (W.W.) Story, whose father Joseph Story served as a Supreme Court Justice and was known as one of the first great legal writers.

According to the W.W. Story, “The subjects are allegorical, one representing Minerva dictating to Young America, seated at a table, the constitution, while beyond Minerva, to the right, are two seated figures, representing Philosophy and Jurisprudence and Infant America. On the other side are Commerce, Education bringing forward a young boy, Agriculture — eight figures in all.

The other subject is Victory bringing forward young America to swear allegiance on the altar of the union, on which she deposits her sword and lance, while on the other side of the altar stands Religion pointing upward and beyond her is Justice and Equity. Beyond these Age, a dignified old man is seated, and Youth, a young girl, is leaning upon his shoulder. On the other side, and beyond America, is the seated figure of an Indian, sadly contemplating the former, representing the aboriginal inhabitant over with Victory and America have triumphed.”

Development of John Marshall Place Park

In the 1980s the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) commissioned several parks, and other construction, along Pennsylvania Avenue including John Marshall Park, situated at 4th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The area that made up the park had been residential with row houses and hotels in the 19th century, which were razed in 1969. Marshall had lived in that neighborhood when he worked in Washington, D.C.

The park is made up of three “platforms” defined by paved walkways, trees, and grass with seating creating borders. There is a sundial in the park, which was a replica of a sundial John Marshall had at his in Richmond. The park also has fountains with bronze lily pads, fish, frogs and dragonflies.  Along the seating of the middle park are two seated, bronze chess players designed by Lloyd Lillie.

John Marshal Memorial Park is 2 acres, cost $2.5 million to construct, and was completed in 1985.

In the final park plans a statue of John Marshall was approved for the park. The statue  is a duplication of the Marshall statue originally located in front of the west-side of the Capitol, and now housed in the Supreme Court building. The statue pedestal is 6 feet high and made of the same granite as the walls in the park. The pedestal was supposed to have the same moldings as the original design. It does not.

About John Marshall

John Marshall was born in Fauquier county, Virginia on September 24, 1755. He fought in the Revolutionary war and became a captain in 1777. He was at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown and fought at Monmouth. In 1782 he was elected a member of the Virginia house of delegates from Fauquier and began after the war ended.

Marshall and James Madison (4th President of the United States) took part in the Virginia convention to accept the constitution.

He later served as a representative in Congress, as an envoy to France and as Secretary of State. In 1801 he was nominated as Chief Justice of the United States, and the Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment. He served as Chief Justice for 34 years. he died in Philadelphia on July 6, 1835, and buried near his wife, Mary Ambler, in Richmond. VA.


The Marshall Memorial, Evening star., May 10, 1884

Perpetuated in Bronze: Unveiling of the Statue of Chief Justice Marshall. The Washington Post, 11 May 1884.

Poet-ic Statues

April is National Poetry Month. And along with the 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month, there are also memorials you can visit in Washington, D.C. that honor poets.

Four statues honor poets in D.C., Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, Dante Alighieri,Kahlil Gibran, and Taras Schevchenko. All are located in the northwest quadrant, and the styles range from simple to elaborate.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882


It took twelve years for the Longfellow National Memorial Association to erect a monument to Longfellow, which was the first memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor an American literary figure.

Longfellow was considered one of America’s greatest poets of the 19th century. He was born in Maine (Massachusetts at the time) and was educated at Bowdoin where he later taught. He then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he taught at Harvard University.

Longfellow’s first published work, in 1935, was a travelogue, Outre-Mer: A Pilgramage Beyond the Sea. He continued to publish prose, however, he gained fame with the publication of Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie in 1847, and The Song of Hiawatha in 1855. In 1860, he published Tales of a Wayside Inn that included the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”, which became one of his best known and most widely read poems. The poem begins:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Longfellow is also remembered for his translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He spent several years translating the Divine Comedy, and started the “Dante Club”, that met regularly to discuss the the Divine Comedy and help Longfellow with translating. The translation was published in 1867.

The statue was the first full-sized statue of Longfellow. The statue represents Longfellow with a book in hand, and is placed on a block of Bonacord granite brought from Sweden and carved in Scotland.

Dante Alighieri, Italian poet, 1265 – 1321


The Dante statue stands on the 15th street side of the lower park of Meridian Hill Park, in an area originally called “Poet’s Corner”.

Dante Alighieri was a major Italian poet who wrote the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) considered one of the greatest poems of the Middle Ages.

Although commanding, the statue is twelve feet high, and the pedestal is 9 feet high, the memorial consists only of the statue and is located at the terminus of the minor cross access. There are four benches around the statue.

The statue of Dante was given to the city by Chevalier Carlo Barsotti, president of the Dante commission of New York. It was designed by Italian sculptor Ettore Ximenes, and is a replica of the Dante statue in New York City.

The statue, unveiled on December 1, 1921, shows Dante wrapped in a long cape, with a book under his arm.

Kahlil Gibran, 1883 – 1931

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Gibran was a Lebanese-American who is best know for his 1923 book The Prophet. He also was an accomplished visual artist in drawing and watercolor.

The Gibran memorial is a peaceful, recessed 2-acres at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, across from the British Embassy. To get to the memorial one has to cross a foot-bridge that leads to the entrance area decorated with a bust of the poet, a water feature and a dove.

In the center of the memorial is a fountain surrounded by concrete benches. Inscribed in the benches are quotes by Gibran. The memorial is peaceful despite the Massachusetts Avenue traffic, and is especially beautiful in the spring when the flowers and azaleas are in bloom.

Taras Shevchenko, 1814 – 1861


The controversial statue of Taras Shevchenko, the 19th century Ukrainian poet, was put in place in early June 1964 at the triangle park at 22nd and P Streets, NW.

Shevchenko was a Ukrainian poet, writer, artist, public and political figure. His literary heritage is regarded to be the foundation of modern Ukrainian literature.

The Shevchenko statue was unveiled during the 150th anniversary of the poet’s birth. The anniversary was also marked in the Soviet Union with festivities and the unveiling of a Shevchenko statue there. Sponsored by anti-Communist Ukrainian-American groups, the Shevchenko memorial was opposed by many Americans on the grounds that the poet was both anti-Semitic and the idol of the Communist Party.


John Ericsson

Statue: John Ericsson
Location: West Potomac Park, 23rd Street and Ohio Drive, SW
Sculptor: James Earle Fraser
Dedication: May 29, 1926
Cost to Taxpayer: $35,000

One year after the death of John Ericsson a bill requesting $30,000 for a memorial to him was proposed in the Senate and referred to the House Library Committee. Apparently it never made it out of committee because in 1912 another bill was proposed for a memorial, this time for $100,000. And again in December 1915, Senator O’Gorman of New York introduced a bill for funding a memorial.

Then in July 1916 a bill requesting $35,000 for the memorial, was favorably reported out of the House Library Committee.

Captain John Ericsson was born in 1803 and died in New York City in 1889. He came to the United States in 1839, after spending some time in London, England, and was naturalized in 1848. During his lifetime he was well-known for engineering. However, he was most famous for building the Monitor – the first iron-clad warship commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

He was buried in New York City, but soon after, and at the request of the Swedish government, his remains were sent to Sweden to be interred there.

Memorial Design

In May 1919, The Evening Star reported that the memorial to Ericsson was being created by David Edstrom, a Scandinavian sculptor living in the U.S., and was described as a modern “Run Sten,” which is a Scandinavian memorial stone that was raised over the dead.

The 1919 plan was to incorporate eight scenes from Ericsson’s life divided into four periods, so that each period will show a relief on the front side of the monument and one on the back. The first relief was childhood, the second Ericsson as a soldier, the third as a master inventor and scientist in England, and the fourth period would be symbolized by the Monitor and the Merrimac in the morning before they battled. The monument would also include a bust of Ericsson.

However, in June of 1920 it was reported in The Evening Star that not only had the location of the memorial to Ericsson moved to the south of the Lincoln Memorial, not the west, but that the artist creating the sculpture was James Earle Fraser.

Fraser’s memorial design, as described in 1920, included a circular floor of 50’ x 50’ on which are inlaid in bronze the points of the mariner’s compass. On top of the circle is a square base of 20’x20’, and on top of that is an even smaller square. The figure of Ericsson is seated and is placed on the larger square, with his elbow resting on the base with a clenched fist. The inscription is to read “In appreciation. John Ericsson, Inventor and Builder of the Monitor: He Revolutionized Navigation by His Invention of the Screw Propeller.”

Rising from the middle of the base are three symbolic figures, and in the center of them is the Tree Yggdrsill.

The three symbolic figures of Vision, Adventure and Labor are suggestive of the circle of thought and action that is required to create and invent, and are made a unit by the mutual relation to the Tree of Life.

Behind Ericsson is Vision a symbolic figure of a woman embodying inspiration. Next is the figure is Adventure, a Norse hero, with a shield and sword, and a winged helmet. And then there is Labor pictured as an iron worker such as those who worked as a vulcan-artificer during the Civil War.

Dedication Ceremony

The dedication took place on May 29, 1926, and was followed by a banquet held at the Willard Hotel. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover addressed the crowd that was made up of members of the American Society of Swedish Engineers and members of Congress.

The memorial hadn’t been completed by the time of the ceremony and the unveiling revealed plaster casts that had been tinted pink to represent the pink granite that will compose the final product.

The memorial had taken a while to pass through Congress, and almost as long to be completed. The first site chosen, just west of the Lincoln Memorial later became part of the Memorial Bridge and Rock Creek Bridge area. The final site was selected after the completion of the Memorial Bridge plans and was south of the Lincoln Memorial.

About Ericsson

During the American Civil War, Ericsson built the first iron-clad battleship named the Monitor. It was completed in 100 days, and was made with revolving turrets for guns. After the victory of the Monitor against the Merrimac (the Confederate iron-clad) other iron-clad ships similar to the Monitor were then built. In Charleston harbor six were built in 52 days.

Although best remembered as the engineer of the iron-clad, Ericsson spent a lifetime studying engineering and inventing things. Among the other engineering items were an instrument for measuring distances at sea; the hydrostatic gauge for measuring the quantity of water which passes through pipes during a given period; the alarm barometer; the pirometer, intended as the standard measure of temperature from the freezing point of water to the melting point of iron; a rotary fluid measure to measure the volocity of fluids passing through pipes of different dimensions and a deep-sea lead, contrived for taking soundings at sea without stopping the vessel’s way and independent of the lead line. He also devoted his later years to “making direct use of the enormous dynamic force stored up in the sun’s rays. To make the enormous and as yet unused dynamic force of this radiant heat available for man’s use,” according to a report in The Evening Star.

Theodore R. Timby

In researching Ericsson and the creation of the monitor, the name Theodore R. Timby of New York comes up a lot. Timby invented the turrets that were placed on the monitor and held guns. The revolving turret was invented and patented by Mr. Timby, and he was paid $5,000 to use the invention. Timby later wrote a letter to the editors of the The Evening Star stating that he supported a memorial to Ericsson and that he would donate $100 to such a memorial. He also stated that he would contribute $500 to a fund for “the erection of a broader and a higher monument to three others, greater heroes of the late war, namely: Hon. John F. Winslow, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Hon. C.S. Bushnell, of New Haven, Conn., and the late Hon. John A. Griswold, of Troy, N.Y., for their courage, patriotism, and liberality in pouring out their millions of gold (at their risk) for the construction of the original Monitor and other kindred vessels in the perilous early days of the rebellion.”