Statues of Golden Gate Park

Kierstin and I made a short trip north to the city by the bay for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon this weekend. I ran through San Francisco as a spectator, leaving early in the morning and taking shortcuts so I could catch Kierstin, her cousins, and some friends at different points in the race. I made a quick stop at Golden Gate Park and managed to snap a few pictures of some statues that were seemingly randomly placed throughout the park. These piqued my interest, and I thought I’d find out a few cool facts about the people who the statues honor.

James Garfield

James Garfield

“My God, what is this?” Garfield exclaimed. A bullet grazed his arm and another hit him in the back, lodging itself behind his pancreas for doctors to discover during his autopsy. Just over two months later, Garfield succumbed to illness that was onset by the infection from the shooting. His chief doctor, Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss (he was named “Doctor” and later became a doctor; probably his only career option) pronounced him dead only 200 days after he was inaugurated as president. His presidency was the 2nd shortest after William Henry Harrison, and he was the 2nd youngest president to die after John F. Kennedy.

Garfield’s wounds have been described by modern historians as “nonlethal”. However, modern medical procedures for bullet wounds prioritized locating the shrapnel above all else. His doctors stuck their dirty, grimy fingers right into the wounds, sterilization being an uncommon practice at the time. Some also say that Garfield may have been malnourished; he originally was put on a diet of bouillon, egg yolks, and whiskey after doctors thought that the bullet had hit his intestines. Then, as his condition worsened, they thought feeding him rectally would be beneficial. Still, other medical historians argue that he would have died anyway, considering how deep the wound was.

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Scotland’s greatest Scot, a likeness of the venerated poet Robert Burns stood right next to the road that the runner zoomed past, but I had a chance to stop and read the poem about a flower that Burns had stomped on while walking through the countryside. Burns is most famous for writing Auld Lang Syne, the traditional farewell to the old year. The title is literally translated to mean “old long since” or, as a better translation, “days gone by”.

Burns's poem

Burns’s poem

Scotland celebrates Robert Burns every year with Burns Night. A Burns Supper, which can be enjoyed any night of the year, is chosen as the main course. A Burns Supper must include haggis, a pudding made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs as well as onion, oatmeal, and various seasonings. Another of Burns’s most famous poems is his Address to a Haggis, which is thought to have popularized the dish. Scotch whiskey is another requirement for a Burns Supper. And finally, there must be a recitation of Burns’s poetry. No true Scotsman would do otherwise.



Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

This statue might be the most intriguing of the ones I snapped, showing Don Quixote and Sancho Panza kneeling before just the head and ruffled collar of Miguel de Cervantes. The two men are characters in Cervantes’s masterpiece Don Quixote, which is considered the first modern European novel, written in the eary 1600s. Quixote recruits Panza in his quest to revive chivalry. Cervantes’s work has been so influential on the development of the Spanish language that the language is often referred to as la lengua de Cervantes.


Ulysses S. Grant

The S stands for nothing! It’s a common elementary classroom fun fact – except that there’s a little more to it. While Grant was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant, he took the new moniker after enrolling at West Point. He was nominated by his local congressman, who confused Grant’s name and included his mother’s maiden name, Simpson. The mix-up led Grant to be nominated as Ulysses S. Grant, with the S being for Simpson. Grant himself would claim that the S did indeed stand for nothing, but it did have a specific origin, through his West Point enrollment.

Grant was the son of a tanner, which caused him to despise the sight and smell of blood. Despite this, he went on to become a successful general in the Civil War, but he always made sure to char his meat for his meals between battles. Even a little blood dripping from his steak would cause his stomach to turn and induce migraines from the memories of the smells and sights.

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Robert Emmet

”Robert Emmet,” reads the engraving, “Irish Patriot”. Emmet was only 25 years old when he was executed for treason by the British, but in his short lifetime, he managed to gain a reputation as an orator and rebel leader. He planned an uprising in 1803, which was hurried and unsuccessful. The uprising took a terrible turn when communications between allied factions failed and additional support never came. The Irish uprising never took place; instead, there was a small street riot that resulted in a few brutal deaths. Emmet fled the scene but was eventually captured and hanged.

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Francis Scott Key

Like chess pieces, the statues in Golden Gate Park have slid from tile-to-tile throughout the park. The Francis Scott Key Monument, for example, has been in three different sites since it was first added to the collection of statues. Francis Scott Key is most famous for writing the lyrics to the United States national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. One of the first musical renditions of Key’s lyrical masterpiece was sung to the tune of To Anacreon in Heaven, which was the official song of an 18th century gentleman’s club. Hence, The Star- Spangled Banner is sometimes referred to as an English drinking song. The Golden Gate Park proudly displays its patriotism, with the Key Monument easily being the largest statue that I saw in the park.

Most likely, I wasn’t able to find all of the statues. I hope to be back at some point and maybe spend some more time in the park looking at statues and learning interesting facts.


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