City Hall Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The 1872 Franklin Foray

Photo by Citywide Monuments Conservation Program

In Printing House Square opposite City Hall Park stands a heroically-sized bronze sculpture of statesman, printer and inventor Benjamin Franklin. Sculpted by Ernst Plassman and erected in 1872, the sculpture was conserved in 1999 by the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program and maintained in 2006 with program support from the History Channel.

The dignified repose of the sculpture masks the tumultuous assault against it that occurred 135 years ago yesterday, just prior to the statue’s unveiling. The following verbatim account, recently unearthed, appeared in the Illustrated Police News on January 25, 1872:

“An exciting scene occurred in Printing-House Square, New York, at half-past 12 o’clock on the 15th January. A person, supposed to be crazy, rushed down Chatham Street with a huge knife in his hand, and climbing upon the large pedestal on which the Statue of Franklin is placed, proceeded to tear the flag off and to hack the Statue with the knife.

“A large crowd gathered around, and various means were resorted to in order to get the man down. The police rushed to the place and endeavored to reach the man with their clubs, but he was too quick. Stones, sticks, missiles and various things were hurled at the man, without any effect.

“He continued for several minutes cutting and tearing the flag, till at last his foot slipped and he fell to the ground. The police seized him, but he fought terribly, and the police had to use their clubs, which excited the wrath of the crowd to such a degree that the police stopped their clubbing for fear the crowd would attack them. He was taken to the station-house, followed by a large crowd.

“He gave his name as Diedrich Barr, thirty-seven years of age, of German birth, and a sailor by occupation. He stated that he was passing by and desired to know who was concealed beneath the covering of the flag, and that he meant no harm.

“He laughed heartily over the matter, being rather slightly intoxicated and full of mischief. He was dressed in a black suit, very neatly, with a slouched hat.”

You can’t make this stuff up…

Written by Jonathan Kuhn


“A boy without mischief is like a bowling ball without a liquid center.”

Homer Simpson

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