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Henry Clay.

Giant Monument to Loser Henry Clay

Field review by the editors.

Pottsville, Pennsylvania

Henry Clay lost presidential elections to John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk. But that's not why Clay -- a slaveowning Senator from Kentucky -- has a huge monument in the coal-mining town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. It's because as a Senator he pushed through protectionist tariffs on foreign iron, which made Pottsville's coal -- needed to smelt USA iron -- more valuable.

The idea for a monument was conceived by Samuel Silliman, a local mine owner, and pushed by Benjamin Bannan, publisher of a local newspaper. Symbolically made of iron, it took three years for the Robert Wood Iron Works of Philadelphia to build: a cast iron statue of Clay, 15 feet tall, atop a 51-foot-tall cast iron column -- altogether weighing almost 30 tons. It was erected on June 23, 1855, the biggest monument in America at that time. Pottsville is so hilly that Bannan could stand on the balcony of his nearby hilltop mansion and admire Henry Clay at eye level. Too bad for the everyday people of Pottsville: a proposed staircase from the main street to the statue was never built.

Henry Clay.

Clay himself never got to see his giant iron likeness; he had been dead since 1852.

Today the statue is surprisingly hard to find on its steep hillside, hidden by trees. The only way to get to it is to drive along a narrow, almost private road away from all the main thoroughfares.

It's somehow entirely fitting that Henry Clay, the frustrated also-ran, should be honored with one of the biggest political monuments on the entire continent, yet have it in a town that few travelers detour to visit, and in a spot that's really hard to see.

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Giant Monument to Loser Henry Clay

S. 2nd St., Pottsville, PA
From S. Centre St. turn west onto W. Union St. and then left onto S. 2nd St. Follow S. 2nd St. up the hill and bear left. When you reach the curve you'll see the monument on the left.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Gargoyle Fountain for HorsesGargoyle Fountain for Horses, Pottsville, PA - < 1 mi.
Jerry's Classic Cars and Collectibles MuseumJerry's Classic Cars and Collectibles Museum, Pottsville, PA - < 1 mi.
Indian Head RockIndian Head Rock, Pottsville, PA - 2 mi.
In the region:
Wolf Sanctuary of PA, Lititz, PA - 33 mi.

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