NYC: Madison Square Park - William H. Seward Statue
This imposing bronze statue of statesman William Seward (1801–1872) in Madison Square Park was created by the artist Randolph Rogers. The sculpture was dedicated in 1876, and Seward is said to be the first New Yorker to be honored with a monument in the city.
Seward served as a state senator of New York from 1831 to 1834, and as Governor of New York from 1839 to 1843. He was elected United States Senator from New York from 1849 through 1861. In 1849 he won as a Whig and emerged as the leader of its anti-slavery wing.
With the decline in the fortunes of the Whig Party, Seward joined the Republican Party in 1855 and lost the presidential nomination to John C. Frémont in 1856. Expected to get the nomination in 1860, many of the delegates feared that his radical past would prevent him from winning the election. When Abraham Lincoln won the nomination Seward loyally supported him.
Lincoln appointed him Secretary of State in 1861 and he served until 1869. During the War, Seward established a secret police force, which arrested thousands of citizens for disloyalty. He fought for the U.S. purchase of Alaska which he finally negotiated to acquire from Russia for $7.2 million (2 cents per acre) on March 30, 1867. The purchase of this frontier land ("Seward's Icebox") was mocked as "Seward's Folly" and Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden".
An oft told tale which Rogers did little to dispel, was that his statue of Seward was nothing more than a new head added to a copy of a sculpture of Lincoln he had made, installed a few years earlier at Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. While the two works do bear striking similarities, the size of Seward’s body appears too large, and though the proportion of the head to body seem at odds, the works are by no means identical. Seward is depicted seated, cross-legged in a large armchair, books stacked beneath, with pen and parchment at hand. The statue is situated on a large pedestal of variegated Italian marble. More than 250 subscribers, among them General Ulysses S. Grant and Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, contributed to the monument’s $25,000 cost.
The sculpture, placed on a diagonal facing the intersection of Broadway and 23rd St at the southwest corner of the park, was dedicated on September 27, 1876. Numerous dignitaries, including future president Chester A. Arthur and General Winfield S. Hancock attended the proceedings, which were reported to be “fittingly done” without extravagant pageantry, but told “the story of [Seward’s] life, of the perils he encountered and the triumphs he achieved.” In 1995, the sculpture was conserved.