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 Cigarmakers 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.

References

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

Edmund Burke

Statue: Edmund Burke, January 12, 1729, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Died: July 9, 1797, Beaconsfield, UK
Location: Massachusetts Avenue between 11th and 10th Streets, NW
Dedication: 3:00 p.m., October 12, 1922
Sculptor: James Havard Thomas (recast from Bristol, England statue)
Architect: Horace Peasley, Washington, DC
Cost to Taxpayers: $0, gift of the Sulgrave Institution

Edmund Burke, stalwart supporter of the American Revolution, was born in Ireland, educated at Trinity College Dublin where he formed a debate club that is still around (making it the oldest, continuous, active club in the world), and then moved to England and served in the House of Commons.

The statue, located in the triangle park formed by Massachusetts Avenue, L Street,, between 11th and 10th Streets, NW, was a gift to the United States by the Sulgrave Institute of England.

The statue dedication was held on October 12, 1922. A British delegation came over for the ceremony. And Sir Charles Wakefield former Lord Mayor of London and treasurer of the Sulgrave Institute delivered the address.

The memorial project was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts on March 31, 1922, and the site was approved on July 21, 1922.  The statue is a replica of one in Bristol, England, that was unveiled there in 1894. The statue is in bronze and depicts Burke in the middle of a speech.

Burke

1729-1797

“Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom”

The inscription above, located on the front of the pedestal, comes from Burke’s famous speech “Conciliation with America”. The complete quote reads “Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great emprie and little minds go ill together.”

Below is the inscription on the back of the pedestal.

This statue — A copy of the work of Harvard Thomas in the city of Bristol, England was a presented through the Sulgrave Institution to the people of America by Sir Charles Cheers Wakefield Baronet formerly Lord Mayor of London…. Erected A.D. 1922.

The Sulgrave Institute takes its name from the Sulgrave Manor in England, the ancestral home of the Washington family. Members include Americans, Englishmen, and Canadians with the purpose of promoting friendly relations among their nations’. In 1922 the Sulgrave Institute also presented a bust of William Pitt to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in September 1922 and a statue of Viscount Bryce, historian, statesmen and author of The American Commonwealth in October 1922, at the Capitol building, to the United States at no expense to the taxpayer.

 

References:

The Burke Statue. The Washington Post, 15 Mar 1922: 6

Burke Statue Site Decided: Will Face Eleventh on Triangle. Begin on Titanic Memorial. The Washington Post, 21 July 1922: 2

Burke Statue Erected; Unveiling to be October 12: Gift of Former London Mayor Through Sulgrave Institute. Temporary Pedestal Used. The Washington Post, 24 Sep
1922: 13

William Blackstone

Statue: Sir William Blackstone, English jurist (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780)
Location: 3rd and Pennsylvania, NW
Sculptor: Paul Wayland Bartlett
Unveiling: 1943, Cast in bronze: 1926
Dedication: none
Cost to taxpayers: $10,000, ABA members raised $50,000 for the statue

The statue of Sir William Blackstone is tucked in between the E. Barrett Prettyman United State Courthouse – built around 1950 and was one of the last buildings constructed in the Judiciary Square complex – located at 333 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, and the William B. Bryant Annex, United States Courthouse.

This statue of Blackstone was never intended to be placed in Washington, D.C. let alone America. The statue at the corner of 3rd Street and Constitution is actually a refugee of the bombing of London during World War II.

In the 1920s the statue was commissioned by members of the American Bar Association (ABA) and was intended as a gift for the people of London. The members then raised approximately $50,000 for creation of the statue, and chose Paul Bartlett, an American living in Paris, as sculptor.

Unveiling day in July 1928 was inclement and the statue, which was to have stood in the Middle Temple outside the chambers where the real life Blackstone lived and worked, was moved to the Great Hall of Courts. The Middle Temple, seat of English jurisprudence – was bombed by the German Luftwaffe in 1941. After that it was decided to give the statue of Sir William Blackstone to the United State, and House bill 2106 of July 12, 1943, provided $10,000 for the purpose of accepting the work. In 1952, the 9-foot, 2,000-pound bronze statue of Sir William Blackstone was transferred yesterday from Judiciary Square to its current location in the square in front of the new United States Court House on Pennsylvania Avenue and 3rd Street, NW.

Blackstone, considered to be the Father of English Law, was the author of Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1769 – a foundation of English law. His Commentaries became a basis for American and English legal systems. Blackstone was born in Cheapside, England, in 1723, the posthumous son of Charles Blackstone, English silk merchant. He attended Oxford and entered the temple in 1741.

Blackstone is shown in judicial robes, with a ceremonial wig, holding his Commentaries. Erected in 1943, the statue was presented by the sculptor’s wife to commemorate the ties between the United States and Britain. A smaller replica, Bartlett made a smaller stone likeness of the great lawmaker, because he deemed the other too large for the Great Hall given to the English Bar Association as a gift from the American Bar Association, stands in London.