Benjamin Franklin statue at Pace Plaza


This sculptural portrait of Franklin was commissioned as a gift to the City by Albert De Groot, a retired Hudson Valley steamboat captain. Park Row was for decades the center of New York`s publishing industry and newspaper businesses, and given Franklin`s activities as a printer of paper currency and publisher of newspapers and almanacs, the choice of location was particularly apt. DeGroot had earlier collaborated with Plassman on the creation of the Cornelius Vanderbilt statue (1869), which stands in the viaduct in front of Grand Central Terminal. This colossal bronze effigy depicts Franklin in 18th-century dress, holding a copy of the Philadelphia Gazette. A second casting may be viewed in the lobby of the High School of Graphic Communication Arts at 439 West 49th Street. On January 17, 1872, the 166th anniversary of Franklin`s birth, the statue was formally unveiled in a lavish ceremony in which artist and inventor Samuel F. Morse removed the shroud and newspaper publisher Horace Greeley delivered the keynote address. Charles C. Savage, speaking on behalf of the New York Typographical Society, commented: “It is appropriate that this statue should be erected in this centre of our trade, in the very midst of our craft-work, instead of in Central Park; for Franklin`s life was devoted to practical hard work, rather than to the ornamental and the recreative.” Today the sculpture stands in a small triangle, with Pace University as its backdrop. Having suffered from environmental corrosion, the statue was treated and restored by the Parks` monuments crew on four occasions between the 1940s and the 1980s. In 1999 the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program, with funding from the Florence Gould Foundation, American Express Company, and Samuel H. Kress Foundation, conducted a complete conservation of the statue and its large granite pedestal. Today this portrait of an American icon, with renewed luster, maintains his watchful gaze over this crossroads of civic life.Ernest Plassman's sculpture was unveiled in an elaborate ceremony with more than 20,000 people with Samuel Morse presiding. He caught pneumonia and died shortly afterward.

Inaugurated, Jan 17, 1872


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