William McKinley statue (Patigian)

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The statue of President William McKinley on the Plaza in Arcata, California, prior to its removal on February 28, 2019.

The McKinley statue for the purposes of this article refers to one of various statues of President of the United States William McKinley, specifically the 8.5-foot (2.6 m) bronze statue by Haig Patigian that stood in the center of the town plaza in Arcata, California, from July 4, 1906, until February 28, 2019.

Inscriptions on the original pedestal of the McKinley statue. At top is inscribed the sculptor's name, and below, the statue's dedication.

This statue of McKinley was commissioned by 81-year-old 49'er George Zehndner in 1905.[1]:22 Zehndner had met McKinley in 1901 and was much impressed by "the first modern president".[2] The president's assassination soon after moved Zehndner to memorialize the president.[citation needed] Zehndner paid $15,000 for the nine-foot statue.[1]:22

The statue was sculpted by Haig Patigian in San Francisco, California,[1]:22 where it fell over during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but was cushioned by a large plaster model that had braced its fall. The artist discovered his statue lying down in a foundry near the waterfront south of Market Street in San Francisco.[citation needed] Patigian feared his statue might melt, but he had to leave it since it was too large for him to move.[citation needed] A week later, the foundry owner told Patigian that the statue had been destroyed.[citation needed]

Patigian later discovered that his statue of McKinley had been saved from the burning foundry by the employee of a nearby machine shop, along with several passersby.[1]:22 They had hauled the statue onto a truck, which succumbed to the flames.[citation needed] The statue was moved by steamboat to the nearby port town of Eureka in May 1906. Zehndner presented the statue to the city of Arcata on July 4, 1906, as "a gift to the city of Arcata for all time to come."[1]:22 Two thousand people, more visitors than the town had ever received, came to Arcata for the unveiling.[citation needed]

The statue, formerly located in the middle of the Arcata Plaza, was in the center of the town's cultural activity.[1]:22 The statue had been embroiled in controversy in Arcata, a liberal college town in Humboldt County, California, since the 1970s.[1]:22 Opponents of the statue decried McKinley's allegedly racist and imperialistic policies, while defenders supported the statue's historical importance and characterized removal attempts as censorship.[1]:22 On February 21, 2018, the Arcata City Council voted to remove the statue from the plaza. Councilmembers who cast their vote in favor of removal were Paul Pitino (motion), Susan Ornelas (second), Arcata Vice Mayor Brett Watson and Mayor Sofia Pereira. Following this controversy a public referendum was held and the people of Arcata voted on whether to keep the statue. The people voted against the measure and ensured that the statue be moved and replaced.[3] In February 2019, the Arcata City Council approved a measure to relocate the statue to Canton, Ohio,[4] and on February 28, the statue was removed from the Plaza in preparation for its relocation.[5] A nearby plaque on the plaza containing what many considered racially insensitive language regarding local native history was also removed in 2018.[6] [7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Arcata Union; Arcata Eye (2008). On This Day In Arcata. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5682-6.
  2. ^ Herhold, Scott (September 4, 2009). "Herhold Two McKinley Statues Two Very Different Towns". The Mercury News. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  3. ^ "Measure M: Initiative to Preserve McKinley Statue". ballotpedia.org. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  4. ^ "Arcata City Council Votes to Relocate McKinley Statue to Canton, Ohio". madriverunion.com. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  5. ^ "McKinley statue removed from Plaza, soon headed for Canton". madriverunion.com. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  6. ^ http://www.cityofarcata.org/817/Measure-M
  7. ^ Hoover, Kevin (22 February 2018). "CITY COUNCIL VOTES McKINLEY DOWN – statue and plaque to be removed". Mad River Union. Retrieved 22 February 2018.

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Coordinates: 40°52′07″N 124°05′11″W / 40.868565°N 124.086518°W / 40.868565; -124.086518