After Over 100 Years, Dueling Returns to the Park! — Sunday, August 28th (Update: CANCELLED)

En Garde!

Cancelled due to forthcoming storm; will be rescheduled

The Martinez Academy of Arms will present dueling in Washington Square Park on Sunday, August 28th from 5-7 p.m. at the Holley Plaza (west of the Fountain). The Broome Street-based school, which teaches the European tradition of fencing arts, will hold a “demonstration of the art and science of fencing as it was practiced in New York City during two of its most important historical eras, the 18th and 19th centuries.”

In It Happened on Washington Square, Emily Kies Folpe documents dueling in Washington Square at the time it was a potter’s field:

The open space of the potter’s field was often a stage where large themes of American history played out in small dramas. In 1803, William Coleman, editor of the New York Evening Post, and Captain Thompson, harbormaster of the port of New York, fought a duel there. Although the immediate provocation was a personal insult, the animosity arose from the political convictions of the two men involved, each of whom adhered to a fundamental but opposing philosophy of government.

Coleman was first challenged to a duel by the editor of the American Citizen who accused him of slander. (Aaron Burr ran American Citizen and he battled Alexander Hamilton the following year in their famous duel in Weehawken, New Jersey in which Hamilton was killed.) The duel between the two editors was called off but Mr. Thompson (likely Thompson Street is named after him?) jumped in and stated that Coleman wasn’t up to a duel and “would readily turn the other cheek if attacked.” It was a different time and this caused Coleman to then challenge Thompson himself to a duel. Thompson died, admitting before hand that he had provoked the duel to happen.

Kies Folpe writes that duels continued for another twenty years or so “even as the area became more populated”; however, in 1828, dueling was prohibited by state law. (The Academy says duels were fought in Central Park as late as the 1920′s!)

Come witness this lost art on Sunday at the Park.

Photo: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliotheque nationale de France

Washington Square Park’s Garibaldi Statue Moved!

Garibaldi Moved!

Garibaldi Old Location to Left

Garibaldi Original Location (Before Move)

The Giuseppe Garibaldi Statue at Washington Square Park was moved last week from its position facing west (looking toward the fountain, his back was to Washington Square East). The Garibaldi Statue was designed by Giovanni Turini and erected in 1888. It was refurbished once but not moved (hard to find info on that but there was a plaque outlining it at the Park – American Express financed it at the time).

Some background on the Garibaldi statue from Emily Kies Folpe in her book, It Happened on Washington Square below. Interesting note that Garibaldi was approached by Abraham Lincoln at the start of the Civil War to command a Union army corps. In response, one of Garibaldi’s stipulations was that Lincoln commit to abolishing slavery. This was not agreed to. Garibaldi declined.

The historic Italian presence around the Square accounts for the great bronze statue standing east of the fountain — the figure of Giuseppe Garibaldi, commander of the insurrectionary forces in Italy’s struggle for unification. Garibaldi was one of the greatest guerrilla generals in history and the most popular Italian patriot of his time. After fighting for Giuseppe Mazzini’s short-lived Roman Republic, he sought asylum in the United States where he lived for two years on Staten Island. Returning to his homeland in 1851, he led his red-shirted volunteer army on campaigns that helped bring about a unified Italy twenty years later.

At Garibaldi’s death in 1882, the Italo-Americano newspaper opened a subscription list to raise funds for a monument honoring the general. Public sculpture was one of the most popular art forms of the nineteenth century (more…)