- Historic Sites
The Colossus Of Staten Island
A ponderous memorial to a people who refused to vanish
April/May 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 3
It was then that the great balloon of Wanamaker’s hopes began to leak. First, considering the name of the expedition and all the formalities connected with signing the Declaration of Allegiance, the Indians—most of whom had not yet been granted even second-class citizenship—came under the delusion that they suddenly had been enfranchised as participating members of the Republic. Dixon, backpedaling, hastened to explain that the “citizenship” of the expedition’s title meant only that the Indian was given the right to honor his country, not the right to vote or otherwise become a real citizen. Second, the press, which had bally-hooed the project at the beginning, turned sour, calling it a “philanthropic humbug” and “tomfoolery” among other things. Finally, the public, turning its attention to World War I, lost interest, and even the active sponsors of the idea began squabbling among themselves.
Wanamaker’s monument never got beyond the paper it was drawn upon. The bronze tablet that had been implanted in 1913 mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again. The concept was resurrected briefly in 1936 as a potential Work Projects Administration program, but died away, then arose again a decade later when a proposed memorial to World War II veterans from Staten Island had to be shifted from Fort Tompkins because of the Indian monument’s previous claim; this brief surge of interest died also.
The Congressional Act of 1911 remains on the books, but it is not likely now that anything will ever be done about it. It is probably just as well; it would be embarrassing to have Wanamaker’s monument rising at the entrance to this land as a kind of preposterous tombstone for the people who would not go away.