Washington Square Park
This monument is dedicated to General Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882), the 19th century Italian patriot who crusaded for a unified Italy during the European era of state building.
Known as the “Sword of Italian Unification,” in 1834, Giuseppe Garibaldi joined the Young Italy Society organized by Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872). They fought in the first republican uprising for independence in Genoa, Italy, but after the movement was crushed Garibaldi fled to South America where he remained in exile from 1836 to 1848. While there, he fought against Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas in the Uruguayan Civil War from 1842 to 1846.
Garibaldi returned to Italy in 1849 to support Mazzini and his short-lived Roman Republic. After Mazzini’s regime capitulated to French forces, Garibaldi fled Italy for New York where he met inventor and fellow Italian exile Antonio Meucci (1808–1889), whose patent for telephone technology predated Alexander Graham Bell. Meucci invited Garibaldi to stay at his cottage in Clifton, Staten Island. There, Garibaldi worked as a candlemaker as he recovered from the war and planned his next military campaign. Today, the cottage on Tompkins Avenue is the home of the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum.
In 1854, Garibaldi returned to Italy to fight for a united Italian nation. In 1860, Garibaldi’s volunteer forces seized Sicily and Naples. The successful campaign led to the unification of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II, and solidified Garibaldi’s international reputation as a military leader. President Abraham Lincoln offered Garibaldi a command in the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War, which Garibaldi declined so that he could continue to fight for the fledgling nation.
The sculptor, Giovanni Turini (1841–1899), who also designed the bronze bust of Mazzini unveiled in Central Park in 1878, was a volunteer member of Garibaldi’s Fourth Regiment during the war between Italy and Austria in 1866. Donated by New York’s Italian-American community, the bronze statue on a granite pedestal was dedicated in 1888, the sixth anniversary of Garibaldi’s death.
By the 1960s, a good-luck ritual developed among New York University Finance students in which each new student in the School of Finance tossed a penny at the base of the Garibaldi Monument at the start of the school year. Acknowledging this tradition and reinforcing its commitment to the community, the university sponsored a wreath-laying ceremony in 1961 to honor the centennial anniversary of Italy’s unification.
In 1970, the Garibaldi monument was moved about 15 feet to the east to allow for construction of a promenade in Washington Square. A glass vessel containing documents from the 1880s was found under the original base of the statue. The documents included newspaper accounts of Garibaldi’s death, a history of the Committee for the Monument of Garibaldi, the organization that helped place the statue, and a poster for and news clippings about the monument’s 1888 dedication.
In 1998, the monument was conserved by the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program. The treatment included cleaning, repatining, and applying a protective coating to the bronze sculpture, as well as cleaning and repairing the stone pedestal. In September 2000, Garibaldi’s scabbard, vandalized and long in storage, was reinstalled and unified with his sword. The project was funded in part by The American Express Company, the Florence Gould Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Details
- Sculptor: Giovanni Turini
- Description: Standing figure (over life-size) on integral plinth on pedestal
- Materials: Bronze and granite
- Dimensions: H: 20'8" W: 10' D: 10'
- Cast: 1888
- Dedicated: June 4, 1888
- Foundry: Lazzari & Barton, Woodlawn, N.Y.
- Donor: Italian-Americans
- Inscription: Pedestal front:
GARIBALDI / 1807-1882 /
IL II GIUGNO / MDCCCLXXXVIII / GLI ITALIANI / DEGLI STATI UNITI / D' AMERICA / ERESSERO /
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