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Father Duffy Square

George M. Cohan map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This bronze statue depicts the American composer, playwright, actor, and producer George M. Cohan (1878-1942).  The statue was designed by Georg John Lober (1892-1961) and dedicated in 1959.  It stands in Duffy Square, named for Father Francis Patrick Duffy (1871-1932), a military chaplain and priest, who ministered to a local congregation after serving in World War I.

Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 3, 1878.  His parents were in show business, and at an early age he performed in vaudeville as well as on the “legitimate stage.”  One of his first roles was with his father, mother, and sister in the family musical-comedy act, “The Four Cohans.”  Besides acting, singing, and dancing, Cohan began to write plays and songs in his youth.

The first play that Cohan produced in New York, The Governor’s Son (1901), was not well received.  However, his next effort, Little Johnny Jones (1904), began a succession of hits,  and several of his songs, such as “Over There” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” have become standards.  Cohan was the quintessential showman, often combining patriotic fervor with Broadway razzle-dazzle.  In 1942, James Cagney won an Academy Award as best actor for his portrayal of Cohan in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy.

After Cohan’s death, a memorial committee, whose first chairman was the noted composer Irving Berlin, sought to commission a statue in his honor.  Oscar Hammerstein II the composer, was the committee’s second chairman, and saw the project through.  The committee selected Georg Lober as the sculptor and Otto Lanmann as the architect.  The same team collaborated on the statue of Hans Christian Anderson in Central Park (1956).  Plans for the George M. Cohan statue were announced in 1956, and the following year work began on a reconstruction of Duffy Square.  On September 11, 1959, the Cohan statue was formally unveiled and accepted on behalf of the city by Mayor Robert F. Wagner (1910-1991).  In 1997, the sculpture was restored with funding from the Times Square Business Improvement District.

Standing on the southern end of the triangle between 45th and 47th street, opposite Times Square, the inscription appropriately quotes his most famous song “give my regards to Broadway.”

Photo of the George M. Cohan Statue in Duffy Square, Manhattan

George M. Cohan Details

  • Sculptor: Georg John Lober
  • Architect: Otto Langman
  • Description: Standing figure (over life size), integral plinth, on pedestal
  • Materials: Figure--bronze; Pedestal--light Barre granite on dark Barre granite base
  • Dimensions: Figure H: 8'7"; Pedestal (upper part) H: 6' 11 1/2" W: 3' 6 3/4" D: 6' 3/4"; Pedestal base H:5 1/2" W: 7'3" D: 7'3"
  • Cast: 1959
  • Dedicated: September 11, 1959
  • Donor: George M. Cohan Memorial Fund
  • Inscription: Pedestal south side:
    GEORGE / M / COHAN / 1878-1942" /---/ GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY

    Pedestal east side:
    FORTY FIVE MINUTES FROM BROADWAY / YANKEE DOODLE BOY

    Pedestal north side:
    YOUR A GRAND OLD FLAG / OVER THERE

    Pedestal west side: MARY'S A GRAND OLD NAME / HARRIGAN

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

Directions to Father Duffy Square

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