The age of bronze has returned, although this time it manifests itself in morals rather than in mechanics. Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt is a rich, shrewd financial operator, full of years, and—we were about to say wealth, but his still eager pursuit of dollars shows that, like Oliver Twist, he yet asks for” more.” He is not full of honors, or at least was not, until the tenth instant at one P. M. when, as Mrs. Partington would say, his “brass figger “ was unveiled to the world, and simultaneously inaugurated at the Hudson River Depot and the Stock Exchange. Many celebrities were invited, but few assisted at the ceremonies at the depot. Many celebrities were not invited, but many were present at the Stock Exchange. Enthusiasm rose to the highest pitch at the absurd burlesque performed^ by Van Schaick and his confreres at the latter place, while at the equally absurd ceremonies at the depot it sunk to zero. As our readers are aware, the depot is a large and commo. dious store house for the Hudson River Railroad freights, recently erected on the site of the old-time St. John's Park, formerly an aristocratic portion of New York city. Upon this building is placed the statue which is reported to have cost an immense sum of money. An inaugural speech was made by Mayor Hall which reads as though his Honor—who is a philo.sopher and wit—must have meant to be bitterly ironical. When the canvas was removed from the statue, the sailors stationed on the roof of the depot to pull up the curtain took off their hats and cheered some, while a few straggling “Hurrays !” terminating in that peculiar cadence indicative of the absence of enthusiasm and carelessness to conceal the want, found vent from throats below. It is evident that the people do not love Vanderbilt intensely, and that the names of such philanthropists as Peabody, which Mayor Hall saw fit to associate with that of Vanderbilt in his fulsome eulogy on the great waterer of stocks, could not avail to wring a hearty cheer from the people at the show. Of the statue itself as a work of art there is not much to be said in the way of commendation. The Commodore stands erect, arrayed in a driving coat of fur, ample to protect from frost a Siberian sledge driver. The surrounding Jas reliefs are absurd, and in many respects ridiculously so. The position of the statue i! badly chosen. The street is too narrow to afford a proper view of it. The figure appears to be making a bashful attempt to step out of its sheltering niche as if afraid of too much publicity. The J«s reliefs portray immense birds more prominent than the ships and locomotives, and apparently struggling to fly away with the whole design. The two trains of carl:! appear to move on very dangerous curves, suggesting the probability of an impending smash up. The bronze locomotive has its boiler and piston-rods apparently bent to fit the crook of the rails. The derrick in front of the locomotive is out of proportion, and would wore. properly stand near the poor representation 1)f the depot than in the way of the' advancing train. Commodore Vanderbilt is widely known as a “ self-made man,” and he has stuck to the one idea of self with wonderful pertinacity. On the whole, we conclude that this brassy compliment, in its gross unfitness in purpose and execution, can only be regarded as a huge joke in brass.
This article was originally published with the title "A Huge Joke in Brass" in Scientific American 21, 22, 345-346 (November 1869)