September 14, 2017

John Winthrop Statue

John Winthrop (1588-1649) was an English Puritan lawyer and one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He served twelve terms as Governor between 1630 and 1649 and he was one of the founders of the First Church in Boston, which was established in 1630.

John Winthrop died in 1649 and is buried at the King's Burial Grounds.

In 1880, the City of Boston commissioned a statue of John Winthrop and put it in Scollay Square at the 250th anniversary of the founding of Boston. (September 17, 1880)

The statue was moved in 1904 as the area was being refitted for the new MTA subway station. Scollay Square was renamed Government Center. The statue ended up in front of the First Church in Boston.

John Winthrop

Twelve things I learned about John Winthrop and the statue

  • The bronze statue was done by Alessandro Nelli in 1880.
  • The statue is 7' by 2.5' by 2.25' on top of a 4' by 8' concrete base.
  • The face is based on the Vandyke Portrait which is now on display at the Harvard Art Museum.
  • This is bronze statue is a replica of a marble statue that is located in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building which was done by Richard Saltonstall Greenough in 1876.
  • Congress allowed Massachusetts to have two statues in the Capital Building Statuary Hall. The other statue representing Massachusetts is Samuel Adams. John Winthrop beat other historical notables such as John Hancock and Paul Revere.
  • The John Winthrop statue was on display in the vestibule of the Boston Athenaeum for four years before being placed in Scollay Square.
  • The statue shows John Winthrop holding the Bible in his right hand - close to his heart. In the left hands are the scrolls to the Massachusetts Charter. The body is position as if he is about to step off the "Arbella" to the New World
  • To the side is a tree stump with a rope around it - holding the vessel to the wharf.
  • In 1968, the statue was damaged in a major fire was at the First Church. Part of the building hit the statue and the head fell off. The head was never recovered and mysteriously disappeared.
  • The statue was removed from the site for repairs and was placed back in 1975. The original head was never found.
  • There are two sculpture signatures on the statue: R J Greenough Sculp 1873 and Alessandro Nelli 1880
  • In 1974, a request was made to move the statue to Winthrop Square in Boston's Financial District. (People thought it was weird to have a square named "Winthrop" without a proper statue.) The First Church declined the offer. The owners of the square eventually settled on the Scottish Poet Robert Burns who wrote the famous poem "Auld Lang Syne."

Note: I was able to figure out that Alessandro Nelli worked on the statue even though nobody gives him credit. His signature is on the back of the statue. His work on this statue isn't even mentioned on the Wikipedia page.

Some John Winthrop Notable Firsts

American Slave Trade

The first documented reference to the slave trade in Massachusetts is the journal of John Winthrop (the founder of Boston), who recorded on 26 February 1638 that the Massachusetts ship Desire had returned from the West Indies carrying "some cotton, and tobacco, and negroes, etc., from thence..."

UFO Sighting

John Winthrop has the earliest recorded written record of a UFO in America. In 1639, Boston Founder and Governor John Winthrop made a peculiar entry in his journal. Within, he describes how several sober men spotted an unusual object in the sky that shone as a great light. The object was large and moved across the night sky that suddenly took on the shape of a pig.

Finding the John Winthrop Statue

The statue located near the corner of Marlboro and Berkley Street in the Boston's Back Bay. (299 Berkeley Street, Boston MA)

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