Conkling statue.

Statue of Politician Killed by a Blizzard

Field review by the editors.

New York, New York

The bronze statue of Roscoe Conkling says something about statue politics, and nothing about Roscoe Conkling.

Conkling was a New York Senator and machine politician in the late 19th century who had qualities both good and bad. He championed the rights of formerly enslaved Americans, but he also insisted that the concept of "equal protection" applied to corporations as well as people, apparently as a payoff to the railroads. He reportedly put aside profit to serve the needs of the poor and the powerless, but he was also compulsively unfaithful to his wife, and once carried on a public affair with the wife of another Senator (and daughter of the Chief Justice). He was a strutting dandy, a failed Presidential candidate (he ran against Chester A. Arthur), and no one really liked him.

None of this is mentioned on the base of his statue, which merely gives his name, and leaves people wondering who is the guy with the funny name.

On March 12, 1888, while stubbornly walking uptown in a blizzard (Although wealthy, he refused to pay what he considered an inflated cab fare), Conkling nearly froze to death in Union Square. He never recovered, and died, age 58, on April 18.

Conkling's family asked the city to erect a statue of him near the place where he was felled by the storm. The city, however, thought that Conkling didn't merit a spot in fancy Union Square. It hemmed and hawed, and finally, five years later, approved the statue -- but only further uptown, in second-tier Madison Square, thus negating the entire point of the statue.

Aside from the statue (and the idea that corporations have the same rights as people) Roscoe Conkling's most lasting legacy was perhaps silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, who was reportedly named for the unfaithful Conkling by Fatty's father, who thought that his son was the product of an affair.

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Statue of Politician Killed by a Blizzard

23rd St., New York, NY
Just inside the southeast corner of the park at Madison Square, at the corner of Madison Avenue and 23rd Street.
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July 11, 2020

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