Events and People

Statues around Philadelphia, Part Two

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The Philadelphia City Hall is home to many statues honoring individuals who influenced the history of the city. From the 37 foot tall statue of William Penn at the top of the building to the smaller statues scattered around the base of the structure, these figures are meant to memorialize the lives and accomplishments of a variety of people.

One of the statues located at the base of City Hall honors Matthias Baldwin, the founder of Baldwin Locomotive Works. Born in New Jersey in 1799, Baldwin worked as a jeweler and printer before founding a machine shop in Philadelphia in 1825. In the early 1830s, Baldwin began building steam locomotives. At a time when most locomotives were produced in England, Baldwin’s locomotives helped the American railroad system and industry to expand dramatically. Baldwin’s assembly plant near Broad and Spring Garden grew and employed more workers as orders for locomotives increased. By the time Baldwin died in 1866, his company had produced around 1500 locomotives. Baldwin’s company continued to manufacture locomotives for several decades despite financial difficulties. They produced their final locomotive in 1956.

In addition to his industrial achievements, Baldwin was also a supporter of African-American rights. He believed that free African-American men should be given the right to vote and donated money to found a school for African-American children. To honor Baldwin, the Board of Trustees of the Fairmount Park Art Association for the Baldwin Memorial Monument selected a statue design submitted by Herbert Adams of New York and awarded him the contract to create the statue in 1902. The completed statue was installed at the intersection of Broad Street and Spring Garden Avenue near the offices of the Baldwin Locomotive Works. It was later moved to City Hall.

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Also located at City Hall is a statue of John Christian Bullitt, a Philadelphia lawyer who founded a well-known law firm in the city. Born in Kentucky in 1824, Bullitt moved to Philadelphia in 1849 after completing college. He became a powerful attorney, gaining much attention for his representation of Jay Cooke & Co., a banking house connected to the Panic of 1873. Bullitt also became involved in politics and served as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1873. One of his major contributions to the city came in the form of the Bullitt Bill, a document he authored in 1885, that became the Philadelphia City Charter in 1887. Bullitt died in 1902. In July 1907, a statue of Bullitt created by John J. Boyle was unveiled on the grounds of City Hall.

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Another statue near City Hall honors William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States. McKinley was born in 1843 and served as a congressman and governor of Ohio before taking office as President in 1897. McKinley’s first term was filled with tariff and economic issues as well as the Spanish-American War. After winning re-election in 1900, McKinley served only a few months of his second term before he was assassinated in September 1901.

As a memorial to President McKinley, the citizens of Philadelphia donated over $32,000 to be used for the creation of a statue. Thirty-eight different designs for the statue were submitted to a jury who chose the design submitted by Charles Albert Lopez, a sculptor, and Albert H. Ross, an architect. The contract was awarded in 1903 and the statue was dedicated at City Hall during a ceremony on July 6, 1908. The final piece featured a statue of President McKinley standing on a column above figures meant to represent Wisdom instructing Youth. The dedication of the statue included a luncheon, a military parade, a band, several speeches, and an oration by James M. Beck, the former Assistant Attorney General of the United States. While the Committee in charge of the statue eventually hoped to install it along the Parkway, it has remained at City Hall.


[1] American Federation of Arts, R.R. Bowker Company. American Art Directory. R.R. Bowker, 1908, p. 118.

[2] “Collection 1903: Furness-Bullitt Family Papers.” The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 2002.

[3] Lienhard, John H. “No. 655: Matthias Baldwin.” Engines of Our Ingenuity.

[4] McKinley Memorial Association. The McKinley Memorial in Philadelphia: History of the Movement, and Account of the Dedication Exercises, Including the Oration by the Hon. James M. Beck. Printed for the Committee, Philadelphia, 1909.

[5] The New York Times. “Baldwin Statue Award.” November 17, 1902.

[6] “William McKinley.” About the White House: Presidents. The White House.