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Wikipedia Description: Cleopatra's Needle (New York City)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cleopatra's Needle in New York City is one of three similar named Egyptian obelisks and was erected in Central Park (at 40°46′46.67″N 73°57′55.44″W, west of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) on 22 February 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by judge Elbert E. Farman, the United States Consul General at Cairo, as a gift from the Khedive for the United States remaining a friendly neutral as the European powers – France and Britain – maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian government.
Made of red granite, the obelisk stands about 21 metres (69 ft) high, weighs about 200 tons, and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, in 1475 BC. The granite was brought from the quarries of Aswan, near the first cataract of the Nile. The inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories. The obelisks were moved to Alexandria and set up in the Caesareum – a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of Mark Antony or Julius Caesar – by the Romans in 12 BC, during the reign of Augustus, but were toppled some time later. This had the fortuitous effect of burying their faces and so preserving most of the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering.
Securing the obelisk
The original idea to secure an Egyptian obelisk for New York City came out of the March 1877 New York City newspaper accounts of the transporting of the London obelisk. If Paris had one and London was to get one, why should not New York get one? The newspapers mistakenly attributed to a Mr. John Dixon the 1869 proposal of the Khedive of Egypt, Mehmet Ali Pasha, to give the United States the remaining Alexandria obelisk as a gift for increased trade. Mr. Dixon was the 1877 contractor who arranged the transport of the London obelisk and denied the newspaper accounts. In March 1877 and based on the newspaper accounts, Mr. Henry G. Stebbins, Commissioner of the Department of Public Parks of the City of New York, undertook to secure the funding to transport the obelisk to New York. However, when railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt was asked to head the subscription, he offered to finance the project with a donation of over $100,000.
Stebbins then sent two acceptance letters to the Khedive through the Department of State which forwarded them to Judge Farman in Cairo. Realizing that he might be able to secure one of the two remaining upright obelisks — either the mate to the Paris obelisk in Luxor or the London mate in Alexandria — Judge Farman formally asked the Khedive in March 1877, and by May 1877 he had secured the gift in writing.
The obelisk was placed on an obscure site, some yards behind the museum. This location appeared to be a site decided by Vanderbilt's wishes. Gorringe wrote, "In order to avoid needless discussion of the subject, it was decided to maintain the strictest secrecy as to the location determined on." He noted that the prime advantage of the Knoll was its "isolation" and that it was the best site to be found inside the park, as it was quite elevated and the foundation could be firmly anchored in bedrock, lest Manhattan suffer "some violent convulsion of nature."
Moving the obelisk
The formidable task of moving the obelisk from Alexandria to New York was given to Henry Honychurch Gorringe, a lieutenant commander on leave from the U.S. Navy. The 200-ton granite obelisk was first shifted from vertical to horizontal, nearly crashing to ground in the process. In August 1879 the movement process was suspended for two months because of local protests and legal challenges. Once those were resolved, the obelisk was transported seven miles to Alexandria and then put into the hold of the steamship SS Dessoug, which set sail 12 June 1880. The Dessoug was heavily modified with a large hole cut into the starboard side of its bow. The obelisk was loaded through the ship's hull by rolling it upon cannonballs.
Despite a broken propeller, the SS Dessoug was able to make the journey to the United States. The obelisk and its 50-ton pedestal arrived at the Quarantine Station in New York in early July 1880. It took 32 horses hitched in pairs to bring it from the banks of the East River to Central Park. Railroad ramps and tracks had to be temporarily removed and the ground flattened so that the obelisk could be rolled out of the ship, whose side had been cut open once again for the purpose. The obelisk was carried through the Hudson River. The final leg of the journey was made by pushing the obelisk with a steam engine across a specially built trestle bridge from Fifth Avenue to its new home on Greywacke Knoll, just across the drive from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It took 112 days to move the obelisk from Quarantine Station to it resting place.
Jesse B. Anthony, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York, presided as the cornerstone for the obelisk was laid in place with full Masonic ceremony on 2 October 1880. Over 9,000 Masons paraded up Fifth Avenue from 14th Street to 82nd Street, and it was estimated that over 50,000 spectators lined the parade route. The benediction was presented by R.W. Louis C. Gerstein. The obelisk was righted by a special structure built by Henry Honychurch Gorringe. The official ceremony for erecting the obelisk was held 22 February 1881.
The surface of the stone is heavily weathered, nearly masking the rows of Egyptian hieroglyphs engraved on all sides. Photographs taken near the time the obelisk was erected in the park show that the inscriptions or hieroglyphs, as depicted below with translation, were still quite legible and date first from Thutmosis III (1479–1425 BC) and then nearly 300 years later, Ramesses II the Great (1279–1213 BC). The stone had stood in the clear dry Egyptian desert air for nearly 3,000 years and had undergone little weathering. In a little more than a century in the climate of New York City, pollution and acid rain have heavily pitted its surfaces. In 2010, Dr. Zahi Hawass sent an open letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and the Mayor of New York City insisting on improved conservation efforts. If they are not able to properly care for the obelisk, he has threatened to "take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin."
Specific picture descriptions: Photos above with "i" icons next to the bracketed sequence numbers (e.g. " ") are described as follows:
NEEDLE_080603_01.JPG: Cleopatra's Needle:
The oldest man-made object in Central Park is the Obelisk, located directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although it is familiarly known as Cleopatra's Needle, the dedication of the Obelisk in fact had nothing to do with Cleopatra, but was a self-commissioned tribute to Egypt's Thutmosis III (an accurate attribution, but clearly without the popular appeal of the Queen of the Nile). The Obelisk was erected in Heliopolis around 1500 BC, moved to Alexandria, and from there to the United States in 1881. The Khedive of Egypt (who governed as a viceroy of the Sultan of Turkey between 1879 and 1914) offered it to the United States in the hope of stimulating economic development in his country.
Moving the Obelisk from Alexandria, Egypt, to Central Park was a feat second only to its original construction. Imagine moving a 71-foot, 244-ton granite needle, first from vertical to horizontal, then into the hold of a ship, across the Mediterranean Sea, and over the storm-tossed Atlantic Ocean without breakage. It took four months just to transport it from the banks of the Hudson River to the Park! The final leg of the journey was made across a specially built trestle bridge from Fifth Avenue to its new home on Greywacke Knoll.
You only realize the massive scale of the Obelisk when you stand right at its base, supported at each corner by bronze replicas of sea crabs crafted by the Romans (and on display in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum); one crab alone weighs approximately 900 pounds. The plaza around the Obelisk has benches for admiring its design, manufacture, and inscription. Surrounding the plaza are Japanese yews, magnolias, and crab apples.
The above was from http://www.centralparknyc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=virtualpark_thegreatlawn_obelisk
The oldest man-made object in Central Park is this Obelisk, located directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle soon after its installation, the stone shaft has nothing to do with the legendary Queen of the Nile. Thutmosis III, an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled from 1479-1425 B.C., had a pair of obelisks made to celebrate his third jubilee (30th year of reign). This is one of them, and the other stands on the bank of the Thames River in London. Made from the quarries at Aswan, the two pink granite monoliths once stood on either side of the portals to the Temple of the Sun in the sacred city of Heliopolis on the Nile River. The shafts themselves are sixty-nine feet high from base to tip, and weigh somewhere between 193 and 200 tons. The base and steps, which were added in Alexandria, are 27 feet high and weigh over 50 tons.
The obelisks remained in Heliopolis until the Romans, under Emperor Augustus, floated them down the Nile to Alexandria around 12 B.C. They were placed in front of the Caesarium, the temple dedicated to the deified Julius Caesar, where they remained until the late 19th century. The Khedive of Egypt, who governed as a viceroy of the Sultan of Turkey between 1879 and 1914, donated Egyptian antiquities to western industrialized nations in exchange for foreign aid to modernize his country. The London obelisk was raised in 1879, and this one arrived in New York two years later.
The Obelisk’s trip from Egypt to New York was a complicated engineering feat. The delicate moving process required laborers to inch the monument on parallel beams, aided by roll boxes and a pile-driver engine. It took nineteen days just to cross the 86th Street transverse road, and it took another twenty days to move it from Fifth Avenue to its resting place on Greywacke Knoll due to a winter blizzard. All together, it took one hundred and twelve days from the time the Obelisk touched upon the banks of the Hudson River until it reached this place. A huge crowd was on hand for the turning of the obelisk upright on January 22, 1881. A crowd of thousands stood in the snow to watch the event. As reported in the New York World, “Bonfires had been built on each side and the scene was most picturesque as the huge mass of 220 tons swung majestically from the horizontal to the vertical position.”
The base of the Obelisk is supported at each corner by replicas of bronze of sea crabs crafted by Roman artisans, each of them weighing approximately nine hundred pounds. Visitors can find the original crabs on display in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum. Jacob Wrey Mould (1825-1886), the designer behind many of Central Park’s most famous structures, created the decorative fence. The plaques that translate the hieroglyphics were donated by the famous filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959), who fondly remembered playing in the area as a boy. A recently restored plaza surrounding the Obelisk has benches positioned to invite a closer look at the monument’s hieroglyphic inscriptions.
The above was from http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/historical_signs/hs_historical_sign.php?id=12745
NEEDLE_080603_12.JPG: Cleopatra's Needle
This obelisk was erected first at Heliopolis, Egypt in 1600BC. It was removed to Alexandria in 12 BC by the Romans. Presented by the Khedive of Egypt to the City of New York, it was erected here on February 22, 1881 through the generosity of William H. Vanderbilt.
Tablet placed by the New York Historical Society 1940
The Obelisk, nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle, is the oldest man-made object in Central Park.
A pair of obelisks was commissioned for Heliopolis on the banks of the Nile in 1500 BC by an Egyptian pharaoh who wished to celebrate his 30 years of reign. The monuments were then moved to Alexandria in 18AD. They remained there until one obelisk was moved to London in 1879. The New York one was erected in the Park two years later and was offered by the Egyptian Khedive to America in exchange for funds to modernize his country.
Transferring the 71-foot, 244- ton granite monument from Egypt to New York was an arduous and delicate process. It took 112 days from the time the Obelisk touched upon the banks of the Hudson River until it reached the Park. Laborers inched the monument on parallel beams, aided by roll boxes and a pile-driver engine. Thousands turned out on January 22, 1881 to marvel as the obelisk was turned upright.
A time capsule was buried beneath the Obelisk and included an 1870 U.S. census, the Bible, Webster’s Dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to Egypt and a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence. A small box was placed in the capsule by the man who orchestrated the purchase and transportation of the Obelisk. He will probably be the only person in history to ever know its contents.
In 1989, the Central Park Conservancy restored the Obelisk’s terrace and landscape with new illumination, benches and paving. The landscape is particularly beautiful in spring when the monument is surrounded by flowering magnolias and crabapple trees.
NEEDLE_080603_17.JPG: Translation of Hieroglyphics:
The Horns, Strong-Bull-Son-of-Ra, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra, he of the Two Goddesses, Protector-of-Egypt-and-curber-of-foreign-lands, the SOn of Ra, Ramesses Beloved-of-Amun, a king excellent like Ra, .... the Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra, Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun.
The Horns, Strong-Bull-Beloved-of-Ra, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Men-kheper-ra; he made (it) as his monument for his father Atum, Lord of Heliopolis, erecting for him two great obelisks, whose pyramidiions are of fine gold, ... Heliopolis ...(the Son of Ra, Thutmose), may he live for ever.
The Horns, Strong-Bull-Loving-Truth, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra, lord of festivals like his father Ptah-Tatenun, the Son of Ra, Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, veritable god star of the Two Lands, who is versed in the laws and is worthy in (his) actions, the Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra, Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, granted life.
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2008 photos: Equipment this year: I was using three cameras -- the Fuji S9000 and the Canon Rebel Xti from last year, and a new camera, the Fuji S100fs. The first two cameras had their pluses and minuses and I really didn't have a single camera that I thought I could use for just about everything. But I loved the S100fs and used it almost exclusively this year.
Trips this year: (1) Civil War Preservation Trust annual conference in Springfield, Missouri , (2) a week in New York, (3) a week in San Diego for the Comic-Con, (4) a driving trip to St. Louis, and (5) a visit to dad and Dixie's in Asheville, North Carolina.
Ego strokes: A picture I'd taken last year during a Friends of the Homeless event was published in USA Today with a photo credit and everything! I became a volunteer photographer with the AFI/Silver theater.
Number of photos taken this year: 330,000.