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Christopher Columbus Monument - Easton, PA

Statue or Public Art Display

In September 1928, the leaders of one of Easton's burgeoning immigrant communities met in their usual gathering place, the Italian Home on South Fifth Street, to talk about raising money for a gift for their new city.

They decided to canvass the Italian neighborhoods for small subscriptions to fund a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus.

Within months, the Columbus committee would commission a well-known Philadelphia sculptor to cast a 9-foot likeness of the Genoese explorer and get the Easton school board's permission to place the statue in front of the high school on Northampton Street.

But the plans would soon unravel under attacks from the Ku Klux Klan and other groups who labeled Columbus an alien and insisted that a statue of him should not be placed on an American school ground.

The sculptor, Giuseppe Donato, would become a leading voice against such " criticism. But Easton's Italian newcomers would persevere, both against the prejudice aimed at them and the financial strain of raising $13,000 from a poor community struggling through the Great Depression.

The Italian community wanted to celebrate its heritage and honor its new country, and chose Columbus as the symbol to link their native land with their new one. On April 22, 1929, seven months after the initial meeting in the Italian Home, the Columbus committee got approval from the Easton school board to place a statue in front of the high school at Northampton and 12th streets.

But opposition arose, and the school board then started deliberating whether the statue would be a good fit for the high school. Six weeks later, Donato came to Easton for a public meeting to discuss the location of the statue.

At a meeting on Nov. 13, 1929, the school board reversed itself and withdrew its approval for a statue because of sharp and widespread division of sentiment in the community.

Though struggling to raise the money for the statue, the Columbus committee continued its quest and eventually found allies on City Council. On Aug. 5, 1930, the council granted permission to put a statue in Riverside Park.

On Dec. 14, 1930, dignitaries that included Italian diplomats from consulates throughout the state gathered along the shores of the Delaware River to dedicate Donato's statue, though chilly weather kept the ceremony brief.

Mayor S.S. Horn thanked the immigrants and the native-born for showing a united citizenry to make the project possible.

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