Monument Monday: Dupont Circle Fountain

From the National Park Service: “In 1871 the Corps of Engineers began construction of Dupont Circle itself which at the time was called Pacific Circle. In 1882 Congress authorized a memorial statue of Rear Admiral Samuel Francis duPont in recognition of his Civil War service. The bronze statue was erected in 1884. In 1921 the statue of Dupont was replaced by a double-tiered white marble fountain. It was designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon. Three classical figures, symbolizing the Sea, the Stars and the Wind are carved on the fountain’s central shaft.” The fountain replaced a bronze sculpture erected in the circle in 1884, which was moved to Wilmington, Delaware by the duPont family in 1920.

Dupont’s most famous victory was his brilliantly devised and implemented capture of Port Royal in November 1861. The failure of the naval assault on Charleston, S.C., in 1863 ended his military career.

The manufacturing connection? His uncle was Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company, which began as a gunpowder factory and today is a multinational chemical corporation. He was also an advocate of technological innovation as described by throughout his naval career, as described in his entry:

Du Pont served most of the next decade on shore assignment, and his efforts during this time are credited with helping to modernize the U.S. Navy. He studied the possibilities of steam power, and emphasized engineering and mathematics in the curriculum that he established for the new United States Naval Academy… He was an advocate for a more mobile and offensive Navy, rather than the harbor defense function that much of it was then relegated to, and worked on revising naval rules and regulations. After being appointed to the board of the United States Lighthouse Service, his recommendations for upgrading the antiquated system were largely adopted by Congress in a lighthouse bill.

In 1853, DuPont was made general superintendent over what is typically considered the first World’s Fair in the United States—the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, held in New York City.
Despite international praise, low attendance caused the venture to go into heavy debt, and DuPont resigned.

Finally, with the start today of the U.S.-China Strategic Economic meetings in Washington, it seems appropriate to note a a national leader who helped force China open to trade in the 19th Century.

In September 1855, Du Pont was promoted to the rank of captain, and in early 1857 he was given command of the new steam frigate Minnesota. His first assignment was to take William Reed, U.S. Minister to China, to his new post in Peiping. Reed had been instructed to negotiate for additional treaty ports and for a broadened interpretation of the principle of extraterritoriality. This was a powerful tool for opening up China commercially, since it made foreign merchants and missionaries immune to Chinese law. On April 26, 1858, the Minnesota joined a contingent of seventeen Western warships in a show of force at the mouth of the Peiho River. When the Chinese refused to make any concessions, a fleet of British and French gunboats opened fire on their coastal fortifications, forcing them to sign a treaty that was satisfactory to the Western powers. On August 15 the Minnesota departed for Nagasaki and then proceeded on to Bengal, Ceylon, and Bombay. It docked in Boston on May 29, 1859.

Economic and political relations have developed since then.

Leave a Reply