The Hand and Arm That Once Belonged to Bowling Green’s King George III Statue Is Going Up for Auction

Pulling Down the Statue of King George III, N.Y.C. by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel circa 1859.
Pulling Down the Statue of King George III, N.Y.C. by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel circa 1859. / Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

More than 200 years before Charging Bull landed in Bowling Green, the New York City park was home to a different kind of symbolic bully: a statue of King George III. reports that just five days after Americans declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776, an assortment of 40 enthusiastic soldiers and sailors toppled the 2-ton lead likeness of George III, melted it down, and used it to make more than 42,000 bullets for the imminent war. That way, the revolutionaries could fire bits of the king right at their enemies from across the pond.

Though most of King George III and his noble steed were indeed melted for musket balls, the clever plot was partially foiled by loyalist Job Burlock and his fellow Tories. When the oxcart bearing the shattered statue to a Litchfield, Connecticut, foundry stopped overnight in the town of Wilton, Burlock’s group stole several pieces and buried them in Wilton.

According to the Journal of the American Revolution, some of the artifacts have been unearthed, including parts of the horse’s saddle, foreleg, and tail, and fragments of the king’s sash and cloak. The New-York Historical Society, the Wilton Historical Society, the Museum of Connecticut History, and the Museum of the American Revolution are all owners of one or more pieces.

In 1991, a Wilton resident dug from their garden the most recent piece: a 21-inch lead hand and forearm, which X-ray fluorescence analysis revealed to match two other parts of the statue. Though it’s not technically proven that this amputated limb is definitely King George’s, all signs point to yes—the land where it was found was once owned by Job Burlock himself.

Skinner, Inc.

Now, Skinner, Inc. is auctioning off the artifact, which is expected to fetch between $15,000 and $25,000. According to the listing, you should expect “some damage to the lead from being dropped, buried, and planted in a garden for years.” All things considered, the remnant of King George III is in pretty good condition.

Skinner, Inc.

Melting down the statue for war missiles was just one creative way American revolutionaries defied King George III—read about how they protested his Stamp Act here.