The bronze Charging Bull sculpture is not the only iconic statue to have stood at the southern tip of Manhattan. In 1770, a large gilded equestrian statue of King George III was erected just a few feet away in New York’s oldest park, Bowling Green.
But what had begun as an exhibit of appreciation and esteem for the King was, by the mid 1770s, nothing more than a glimmering display of the tyranny the colonists felt they could no longer endure. On July 9, 1776, right after the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York City, the statue was torn down in a furor of anti-monarchic sentiment. Surprisingly, and incredibly, physical remnants from that historic day still exist. The wrought-iron fence that stood around the Green in 1776 still stands, and fragments of the destroyed statue have survived to be viewed at various museums.
Though the statue only stood for six short years, its creation and destruction were a microcosm of the fluctuating relations between Britain and the colonies. To peer into the display case holding the horse’s tail at the New-York Historical Society feels almost unreal. To be able to touch that fence and see the rough surfaces left after colonists sawed off its ornamental crowns, is to literally have history in your hands. These metals, fence and fragment, were eyewitnesses to events that shaped a nation over 200 years ago, and yet here they are, just as they were then, ready to be rediscovered by history-savvy passersby.