Episode 306: The Horse’s Tail: Revolution & Memory in Early New York City

The words of the Declaration of Independence are not the only aspect of the American Revolution that carry power. Visual and material objects from during and after the Revolution also carry power and meaning. Objects like monuments, uniforms, muskets, powder horns, and the horse’s tail, a remnant of a grand equestrian statue of King George III, which stood in New York City’s Bowling Green park.

Historians Wendy Bellion, Leslie Harris, and Arthur Burns join us to investigate the history of revolutionary New York City and how New Yorkers came to their decisions to both install and tear down a statue to King George III, and what happened to this statue after it came down.

This episode is sponsored in part by Humanities New York. The mission of Humanities New York is to strengthen civil society and the bonds of community, using the humanities to foster engaging inquiry and dialog around social and cultural concerns.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

In honor of the Fourth of July, this episode explores the history of revolutionary New York City and how New Yorkers came to their decisions to both install and tear down a statue to their king, King George III, and what happened to this statue after it came down. It’s a story that will reveal the power of visual and material objects and how they help us remember the American Revolution.

Our guests for this episode are Wendy Bellion, a Professor of History and the Director of the Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware and the author of the book, Iconoclasm in New York: Revolution to Reenactment; Leslie Harris, a Professor of History and African American Studies at Northwestern University and author of In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626 to 1860; and Arthur Burns, a Professor of Modern British History at King’s College London and the Academic Director of the Georgian Papers Programme.

What You’ll Discover

  • How material objects help us remember the Revolution
  • The geography and demographics of early New York City
  • How early New York City grew and changed over the 18th Century
  • The history of slavery and trade in New York City
  • History of violence, protest, and rebellion among early New York City’s enslaved population
  • The creation of Fort George and Bowling Green
  • Early New York City as an imperial and royalist stronghold
  • Bowling Green as a significant space in early New York City
  • New Yorkers’ response to the Stamp Act Crisis
  • The decision to commission statues of William Pitt and King George III
  • Presence and visualization of King George III in London and around British Empire
  • Installation and dedication of the statue of King George III
  • July 9th, 1776 and the tearing down of the king’s statue
  • Historic instances of iconoclasm
  • They recycling of King George III’s statue into bullets
  • How the memory of King George III’s statute has changed over time

Links to People, Places, and Publications

Series Music

  • The original and historical music you heard in this episode was composed and arranged by Joel Roston.

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