Tuesday, January 16, 2007

William Earl Dodge: OMOM Essay 24

In "About the Sculpture" I consider what details make this figure of a businessman so different from those of Rea and Vanderbilt (Essays 20 and 25). I also note that all the portrait sculptures erected in the 19th c. were meant to remind viewers of people worthy of emulation. More on this under Duffy (Essay 27).

My favorite story about Dodge (d. 1883), which I didn't manage to fit into either Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan or Forgotten Delights: The Producers, is his dialogue with President-Elect Lincoln in February 1861. As Burrows and Wallace describe it in Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (p. 867):

William E. Dodge, industrialist and financier, explained that New Yorkers were nervous about the position he would take toward the South in his forthcoming inaugural and wanted to know "whether the grass shall grow in the streets of our commercial cities." Lincoln responded pleasantly that "if it depends upon me, the grass will not grow anywhere except in the fields and meadows." But when Dodge pressed him, asking if this meant he would yield to the just demands of the South, Lincoln replied grimly that the Constitution must be "respected, obeyed, enforced, and defended, let the grass grow where it may."

It proved surprisingly difficult to gather biographical information about Dodge. Although he co-founded Phelps Dodge, today one of the world’s leading mining companies, Dodge isn't in the American National Biography or the Encyclopedia of New York City. I ended up scrounging for information in 19th-c. biographical dictionaries at the New-York Historical Society. More details on my research for Dodge are included in Forgotten Delights: The Producers. (This is the sixth of ten sculptures covered in both OMOM and FDP.)

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