This is D.C.’s original statue of Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont, installed in 1884. Here you see it – clearly sitting at the center of Dupont Circle. We see the namesake admiral but we don’t see the well-known Dupont Circle fountain. Why did Washingtonians remove Dupont from his circle? The answer is a simple one.
Here’s how the Washington Times explained the situation in 1919:
The rather awkward looking statue of Admiral Dupont which has stood in the circle for more than twenty-five years has long been an eye-sore to his relatives and friends, and some time ago permission was asked of Congress to erect a new and more fitting monument.
Critics talked about the statue’s “iron whiskers.” They were merciless. Congress acted in 1917, authorizing its removal — with a pledge from the Dupont family to pay for a better monument.
Mrs. Willard Saulsbury, wife of the Senator from Delaware, and a niece of Admiral Dupont, was the leader in the movement to effect the removal of the old statue and the substitution of the new one. She and other relatives did not regard the present statue as a work of art suitable to the place it occupies, and provided that in consideration of being allowed to remove it the new statue should cost the Government nothing at all. -Washington Times, 8/27/1918
The Dupont family — with the blessings of the District’s Commission of Fine Arts — selected Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon to build a new monument. They were the sculptor/architect duo responsible for the Lincoln Memorial. The new design featured allegorical figures for the sea, wind, and stars supporting a fountain. The admiral wasn’t pictured but he was described in the inscription encircling the base:
Samuel Francis Dupont – Rear Admiral, United States Navy, 1803-1865 - This Memorial Fountain Replaces a Statue Erected by the Congress of the United States in Recognition of His Distinguished Services.
Launt Thompson’s sculptured likeness of Admiral Dupont was carted out of Washington in August 1920.
The sculpture that our city threw away was gladly accepted by Wilmington, Delaware. The monument stands today in Rockford Park. Its pedestal notes the sculpture’s previous home:
Originally placed in Du Pont Circle – Washington, D.C. – It was removed to this site – A.D. MCMXX
The widow Dupont is a resident of Philadelphia. … Her maiden name, strange to say, was Sophia Dupont and was not changed by her marriage to the admiral, who was her first cousin.
Originally from Philadelphia, Aaron Myers has lived and worked in D.C. for most of the last 15 years. He's a graduate of George Washington University and a resident of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronemyers.