Tomorrow will mark the 74th anniversary of Union College formally receiving the statue of Chester A. Arthur.
Arthur is probably best known as serving as the 21st president of the United States of America.
Before his days in office, the young Arthur found himself taking classical courses here at Union.
Arthur enrolled at Union in 1845 and was very involved on campus. By his senior year, Arthur was the president of the debate society and was elected to Phi Betta Kappa and Psi Upsilon. During his winter breaks, Arthur served as a school teacher in Upstate New York.
Upon his graduation in 1848, Arthur went on to become a New York State lawyer. During the American Civil War he served as the quartermaster general for the state of New York.
Following the end of the conflict, Arthur became heavily involved in national politics and by 1881 was the Vice-President of the United States of America.
Arthur, on Sept. 19, 1881, was quickly sworn into the office of the presidency following the assassination of President James A. Garfield.
The Vermonter advocated for lowering tariffs to help indebt farmers and middle-class Americans. He also signed the Pendleton Act into law. The act created a bipartisan Civil Service Commission.
Arthur was able to rise above his Republican party politics and successfully implemented social reform not consistent with his party.
But, it was Arthur’s acts as Collector of Customs in the port of New York which lead to the nine-foot tall statue of the former president.
John Starin, a former member of the Board of Trustees during the late 19th century, respected the former president. Being himself involved in commercial boating with the nickname, “King of New York Harbor,” Starin wanted to immortalize Arthur.
In 1892, Starin had Ephraim Keyser, a sculptor who worked on Arthur’s gravestone, to build him the statue of recently deceased president.
The statue remained in his estate in Fultonville, N.Y. until 1941 when his granddaughter, Marguerite Spraker, donated the statue to the college.
The statue spent several months until a base could be found for the president. The granite for the base was donated by W. Howard Wright, class of 1895, and came from Arthur’s home state, Vermont.
The statue was formally received on Nov. 6, 1941 by President Dixon Ryan Fox.
Fox discussed the early life of Arthur during his early years and how he came to Union. Fox also noted that by the time Arthur was on the presidential ballot with Garfield, the two composed a team of Williams and Union.
Fox hailed Arthur as, “a man of the world” and “father of the new U.S. Navy.”
Fox concluded by pointing out that the statue took its place with other great academic statues including ones of John Harvard at Harvard and Ezra Cornell at Cornell.