Charging Bull, sometimes called the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling
Green Bull, is a 16-foot long, 3,200 kg (7,000 pound) bronze sculpture
by Arturo Di Modica, depicting a (what else) bull, leaning back on its
haunches with lowered head as if prepared to charge. The bull is
symbolic of a prolonged period of prosperity in financial markets, in
contrast to the bear, symbolic of a downswing. The etymology of the
terms is somewhat ambigious. The most common theory points to
"jobbers", London bearskin brokers who would sell bearskins
before the bear had actually been caught in anticipation of falling
prices. A far more obvious origin points to the method by which the
animals attack—bulls charging at a high speed with its horns up from
the bottom; bears moving slowly and pouncing from above. Other
theories relate to two old merchant families—the Barings and
Bulstrodes, hibernation habits, and posture.
Di Modica created the sculpture following the 1987 stock market at a personal cost of $300,000. Not commissioned by the city as a work of public art, he and a group of friends loaded it on a flatbed truck on the night of December 15, 1989 and unloaded it next to the NYSE's 60-foot Christmas tree. In a flyer distributed that day, Di Modica proclaimed it to be a symbol of "strength, power and hope of the American people for the future." The police seized the illegal sculpture, placing it into an impound lot. In response to great public outcry, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation re-installed it several blocks away at its current location at the north end of Bowling Green. One of the most photographed pieces of art in the city (go ahead, try to get a standalone shot without a throng of posing tourists), it has come to be an unofficial symbol of the Financial District itself.
In 1993, hoping to recoup some of the cost, Di Modica announced that the bull sculpture was for sale but the City refused to purchase it. The only interested party was a Las Vegas hotel, but a campaign led by the former Parks Dept. Commissioner, Henry Stern, prevented its relocation. Di Modica continues to own the copyright to the statue and has sued Wal-Mart, North Fork Bancorporation Inc. and eight other companies for selling replicas of the bull and using it in advertising campaigns.
Bowling Green is New York City’s oldest park. According to tradition, this spot served as the council ground for Native American tribes and was the site of the legendary sale of Manhattan to Peter Minuit in 1626. Bowling Green was first designated as a park in 1733 and its famed iron fence was installed in 1771.
By the late 18th century, Bowling Green marked the center of New York’s most fashionable residential area, surrounded by rows of Federal-style townhouses. By mid-century, shipping offices inhabited the old townhouses, and the park was returned to more public use.
A 1976-77 capital renovation restored Bowling Green to its 18th-century appearance. Publisher and philanthropist George Delacorte donated the park’s central fountain, which was designed by M. Paul Friedberg and Partners.
Bowling Green Fence and Park National Historic Register #80002673 (1980)