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Union Square Park

Independence Flagstaff map_it

History

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

Although this flagstaff commemorates the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it is also known as the Charles F. Murphy Memorial Flagpole. The intricate bas-reliefs and plaques were completed in 1926 by sculptor Anthony De Francisci (1887–1964), and feature a procession of allegorical figures representing democracy and tyranny, the text of the Declaration of Independence, and emblems from the original 13 colonies. The enormous flagpole, said to be one of the largest in New York State, is capped with a gilded sunburst.

The Independence Flagstaff was a gift of the Tammany Society, and replaced a flagstaff built during the tenure of Tammany president Charles F. Murphy (1858–1924), a boss in the infamous political machine. After Murphy’s death, Tammany supporters wanted to dedicate this bigger and better flagstaff to Murphy. Public sentiment prevented honoring a symbol of Tammany corruption in a manner commensurate with Lincoln and Washington at Union Square Park, and by the time the Murphy Flagpole was dedicated on July 4, 1930, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, it was referred to as the Independence Flagstaff. The flagstaff has been restored extensively through the years, most recently in 1987 when the stone pedestal was renovated and the flagpole reinstalled.

This film, shot on July 4, 1930, depicts the unveiling of the Independence Flagstaff (Charles F. Murphy Memorial) at the center of Union Square at the time of its reconfiguration and renovation completed in late 1930.  The film was taken on behalf of the sculptor of the bronze reliefs, Anthony De Francisi (1887-1964), and was given to New York City Parks & Recreation by Francisi’s daughter Gilda Slate.  Use of this film, re-mastered with the support of the Union Square Partnership,  is restricted.

Francisi lived and worked in New York City, and was also an active member of the community of artists on Cape Ann, Massachusetts centered at Gloucester.  His peers included Paul Manship and Malvina Hoffman, among other artists of note.

Independence Flagstaff Details

  • Sculptor: Anthony de Francisci
  • Architect: Perry Coke Smith, Charles B. Meyer
  • Description: Flagstaff on drum pedestal with two bas-reliefs and two plaques
  • Materials: Flagstaff--steel, copper sheathing; Pedestal--granite; Bas-reliefs and plaques--bronze,
  • Dimensions: Flagstaff H: 40'; Pedestal H: 9'6' Diameter 36'
  • Cast: 1926
  • Dedicated: July 4, 1930
  • Donor: Tammany Society
  • Inscription: signed and dated: ANTHONY DE FRANCISCI / PERRY COKE SMITH / 1926 At top of granite drum: ""HOW LITTLE DO MY COUNTRYMEN KNOW WHAT PRECIOUS BLESSINGS THEY ARE IN POSSESSION OF AND WHICH NO OTHER PEOPLE ON EARTH ENJOY" THOMAS JEFFERSON"

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

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