American Revolution

Posted by Ellen


On July 4, 1776, a public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York City raised revolutionary fervor to a fever pitch. A few nights later, hitherto-underground terrorists and secret militias took to the streets and marched on the Bowling Green, a public square near the tip of Manhattan that featured a twenty-ton lead-cast statue of the despised King George III astride a horse, in the mode of Roman heroic monumentalism.

The American revolutionaries tied ropes around the statue, toppled it, and broke it to pieces. All but the head of the king was melted down and recast into musket balls to fire at the king's soldiers. The head was to be displayed on a pike, but Tories stole it and shipped it back to England.

The colonists quickly brought the news of their vandalism to the attention of General Washington, but much to their surprise, he was not impressed. He told them sharply that he did not want to hear of any more such nonsense.

The word was out, however. Within a few weeks, Francois X. Habermann in Augsburg, Germany, published this engraving to memorialize the event. Habermann did not know what New York City looked like, or what kind of clothing people wore in America. He apparently did not know that the statue was toppled by white militiamen, not African slaves. But he knew just how Europeans wanted to imagine anti-royal goings-on in the strange New World on the far side of the earth.