stairway or by the more modern elevator system.
pounded into shape, according to the old, slow and exasperating process, will be pressed, bolted and anchored by an entirely new system of advanced ideas.
is a marvelous example of engineering, architecture and sculpture combined, will surpass in height any existing figure – monument ever erected.
facilities for records and exhibits of the North American Indian and the collection will be under the supervision of men familiar with the subject and capable of overseeing this department.
run to the base of the capital which is to be made in the form of a promenade.
between Maine and Mexico.
The cost of this work will reach approximately $650,000.
This flamboyant scheme was gotten up by Rodman Wanamaker, the son of John Wanamaker, who had built a Philadelphia men’s clothing store into one of America’s largest retail empires. Blessed with the bounty of this heritage, the younger Wanamaker acquired a formidable reputation as a patron of the arts, an aviation enthusiast, and an American Indian buff of considerable dimensions. Convinced, as was much of his generation, that the Indian was fast approaching extinction, he had financed expeditions to collect facts, artifacts, and movie film of the doomed people before they slipped into
oblivion. Then, at a dinner party in 1909 at New York City’s fashionable Sherry’s restaurant, with such notables as Buffalo Bill in attendance, he proposed the construction of a great monument to the Indian in New York Harbor.
The site finally selected was the front portion of Fort Tompkins, the highest rampart within the Fort Wadsworth complex on Staten Island (the same structure that today houses a military museum). And
so it was that on Washington’s birthday, 1913, President William Howard Taft, struggled up the steps of Fort Wadsworth for the dedication. On hand was an odd assortment of politicians, military officers, academicians, battle-garbed tribal chiefs, newspapermen, and movie cameramen hired by Wanamaker.
Wanamaker’s monument never got beyond the paper it was drawn on. The bronze tablet that had
been implanted in 1913 mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again. The concept was resurrected briefly in 1936 as a potential Work Projects Administration program, but died away, then arose again a decade later when a proposed memorial to World War II veterans from Staten Island had to be shifted
from Fort Tompkins because of the Indian monument’s previous claim; this brief surge of interest died also.
In 1913, President Wlliam Howard Taft joined a delegation of 32 Indian chiefs and other dignitaries for a groundbreaking ceremony that saw the chief executive digging up dirt with an ancient axe-head made from a buffalo bone. Following a flag-raising, the chiefs then signed a “Declaration of Allegiance to the United States.”
The statue was never built, but according to a story at SILive.com, a Native couple who live on Staten Island are trying to make it happen. The statue was a sort of premature memorial — “to honor what was thought to be a vanishing race,” says Margie Boldeagle. “Now it’s taken on a different light. It would show that we are still here.”
Boldeagle and her husband, Robert, are not proposing anything like the colossus planned a century ago. They would like to see a 25-foot statue built on the fort grounds. They say they have a sculptor and donors for the million-dollar project lined up. The National Parks Service (NPS), which has maintained the fort since it was closed in 1994, won’t allow the Boldeagles’ project, arguing that the 1911 declaration issued by Congress authorized the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy — not the NPS — to construct the monument.
The monument originally planned was the brainchild of Rodman Wanamaker, whose father had founded Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia. As related in an article in American Heritage, the pomp and circumstance went beyond the Presidential visit; a sort of publicity tour ensued:
The excursion was given the cumbersome title of the “Rodman Wanamaker Expedition of Citizenship to the North American Indian,” and at each stop the Fort Wadsworth flag-raising ceremony was re-enacted. Indians along the way cheerfully signed the Declaration of Allegiance, as well, then gathered around an Edison phonograph to hear a message from the Great White Father himself—Taft’s successor, Woodrow Wilson: “Because you have shown in your education and in your settled way of life, staunch, manly, and worthy qualities of sound character, the nation is about to give you distinguished recognition through the erection of a monument in honor of the Indian people, in the harbor of New York.”
The project was shelved with the outbreak of World War I. Whether the Boldeagles, founder of the Red Storm Drum and Dance Troupe, can make their version of it a reality remains to be seen; although they have the support of some local politicians, the agencies that control the facility seem uninterested. John Warren, public affairs specialist for Gateway National Recreation Area, which oversees Fort Wadsworth, told SILive that national parks are about preservation, and “not places where people can put up statues and memorials.”