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Red Hook Recreation Area

Red Hook Doughboy Statue

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

This memorial, which honors those local heroes from Red Hook who died while serving their country in World War I, was dedicated in 1921. Augustus Lukeman (1872–1935) was the sculptor commissioned by a war memorial committee, which solicited voluntary contributions totaling $10,000 from the citizens of the Third Assembly District for the sculpture. Arthur D. Pickering was the architect who designed the granite pedestal.

The derivation of the term doughboy remains in question. It was first used by the British in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to describe soldiers and sailors. In the United States the nickname was coined during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), and was widely popularized during World War I (1914–1918) to refer to infantrymen. After the war, in which Americans saw combat in 1917-18, numerous communities commissioned doughboy statues to honor the local war heroes. The Red Hook Doughboy was one of nine such statues erected in New York City’s parks.

The sculptor Augustus Lukeman was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1872, and studied art with the well-known American sculptors Launt Thompson and Daniel Chester French, and at the famous École des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. He had a prolific career, and was affiliated with many arts organizations, including the National Sculpture Society, National Academy of Design, and the Architectural League. In New York City, his works also include the Prospect Park World War I Memorial (1921) on which Pickering also collaborated, and the Straus Memorial (1915) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Lukeman depicts the doughboy in an active pose, head held triumphantly upright, his hat held aloft, and a rifle slung over his shoulder. Over time the monument suffered from weathering and vandalism. The bronze honor roll tablet was stolen around 1971. In 1972, custody of the monument was transferred to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #5195, located at 321-325 Van Brunt Avenue in Brooklyn. At that time the bronze statue was cleaned, the pedestal recut, and a new honor roll fabricated.

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