Statue of John Barry

Coordinates: 38°54′7″N 77°1′54″W / 38.90194°N 77.03167°W / 38.90194; -77.03167
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Commodore John Barry
Commodore John Barry statue in 2015
Commodore John Barry statue in 2015
LocationFranklin Square, Washington, D.C.
Coordinates38°54′7″N 77°1′54″W / 38.90194°N 77.03167°W / 38.90194; -77.03167
ArchitectJohn Boyle (sculptor)
Edward Pearce Casey (architect)
Roman Bronze Works (founder)
NRHP reference No.78000256[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJuly 14, 1978 (American Revolution Statuary)
Designated CPApril 24, 1997 (L'Enfant Plan)
Designated DCIHSMarch 3, 1979

The statue of John Barry commemorates the "Father of the United States Navy", Commodore John Barry (1745-1806). Barry was an Irish-born sailor who joined the American colonists in fighting for independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Barry became the first commission by the Second Continental Congress. He captained several ships during the war, and not only fought in the Continental Navy, but also the Continental Army. He was the first American to capture an enemy ship and was promoted to commodore by President George Washington in 1794. Barry's last ship, the United States, fought in the Quasi-War. He retired in 1801, but remained head of the United States Navy until his death in 1806.

Plans to erect a memorial to Barry began in 1902. With assistance from members of Congress, a bill to install the memorial and the allocation of $50,000 to pay for it occurred in 1906. The National Commodore John Barry Statue Commission included government officials, veterans, and many Irish American groups. The person who won the commission to create the sculpture was John J. Boyle. Work on the sculpture and pedestal took place from 1911 to 1913.

A dedication ceremony for the memorial took place in 1914, which included a large parade through Washington, D.C. Over 10,000 people, including President Woodrow Wilson, members of Congress, military leaders, and Supreme Court justices, attended the ceremony. The unveiling of the statue was done by one of Barry's descendants. The bronze statue of Barry is located on the western edge of Franklin Square in downtown Washington, D.C. Barry is portrayed wearing a military uniform while his right hand is holding scrolls and resting on a sword. The female allegorical statue on the front of the pedestal represents Victory. She is holding a laurel wreath as an eagle rests below her right arm.

The memorial is one of 14 American Revolution Statuary listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites in 1978 and 1979, respectively. The memorial is also a contributing property to the L'Enfant Plan, listed on the NRHP in 1997.


Barry's biography[edit]

John Barry was born 1745 in Ireland, and later worked as a cabin boy before immigrating to the United States at age 15.[2][3][4] Fifteen years later Barry joined citizens from the Thirteen Colonies, who were attempting to fight for their independence in the American Revolutionary War. He joined the Continental Navy and was named captain of the USS Lexington in December 1775, the first commission by the Second Continental Congress. While commanding the ship, he became the first American to capture a Royal Navy ship.[2][3][5]

Barry commanded the Lexington for most of 1776. Not only did Barry serve in the Continental Navy, he served in the Continental Army during the cold winter of 1776-1777, successfully fighting the enemy at the Battle of Trenton and Battle of Princeton. In 1777, he commanded the USS Delaware, and was responsible for leading successful attacks on the Royal Navy. In 1778 he commanded the USS Raleigh, which ran aground and repaired for use by British forces. In 1781, Barry commanded the USS Alliance during a successful battle with the Royal Navy. He was seriously injured in the process, but it was the final naval battle of the war.[3][6]

After the war ended and American had won its freedom, President George Washington issued Barry Commission Number 1. He was referred to as commodore from that point. His final ship was the United States which he captained during the Quasi-War with France.[2] He retired after that war, but retained his role as head of the United States Navy until his death in 1806. Barry's contribution to American wars, including being the first American commissioned naval officer, earned him praise and admiration.[3][6]

Memorial plans[edit]

Portrait of John Barry by Wilfred Israel Duphiney
A portrait of John Barry by Wilfred Israel Duphiney

In early 1902, a social club in Washington, D.C., voted unanimously for a memorial to be placed in the city. Michael Francis O'Donoghue, husband of Marian Longfellow O'Donoghue, was an Irish American who was tasked with getting permission from Congress for the memorial. Representative Michael E. Driscoll and Senator Thomas Kearns agreed to introduce a bill in Congress that would result in the erection of the memorial. The first bill was written by O'Donoghue and was introduced in the House of Representives and the Senate. With assistance from Senator Henry C. Hansbrough, the bill passed the Senate with an appropriation of $25,000 for the memorial to be built. Senator George P. Wetmore later increased the funding to $50,000.[7]

Later that year the National Commodore John Barry Statue Commission was formed, which included members of Congress and the public. The plan for a memorial was supported by Irish organizations including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, as well as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution. At the same time, there were calls for the funding of memorial to John Paul Jones. The bill was modified to include approval of both memorials, allocating $50,000 for each one.[7][8] It would take until June 8, 1906, for both chambers to pass the bill. A competition open to the public took place in 1908 to find a sculptor for the memorial.[3][7]

After the winning design was rejected, and the top two other finalists were eliminated, the person chosen to sculpt the statue was Irish-American John Boyle, a choice hailed by Irish groups. After the design was approved, the committee in charge of the memorial chose Franklin Square as the place where the memorial would be installed. After numerous ideas were suggested for its location in the park, it was decided the memorial would stand in the center of the western edge of the park.[7] One person who supported its location was landscape architect George Burnap from the United States Army Corps of Engineers who lamented the fact "In America, we have the horrid habit of placing an equestrian statue to some war hero or other in the exact centre [sic] of every park."[9]

Final approval of the memorial's design occurred in 1911 and a contract was signed with Boyle in November of that year.[8] During the next two years, work began on the sculpture and pedestal.[10] The model was completed in 1911 and the casting in 1913. In addition to Boyle, Edward Pearce Casey was selected to be the memorial's architect, Irving W. Payne to be the landscape architect, and Roman Bronze Works to be the founder.[2] Meanwhile, work on the John Paul Jones Memorial was completed and the dedication took place in 1912.[11]

In June 1913, a report to the Department of War indicated the model of the statue would soon be completed, and that casting it in bronze would take several months. There was also a request made for the federal government to allocate $2,500 for the memorial dedication ceremony.[8] In December 1913, Irish American groups decided the dedication should be moved to the following year, mostly because it would allow them to properly prepare for the ceremony.[12]


The day before the dedication ceremony on May 16, 1914, thousands of members from Irish organizations including the Irish Fellowship Club, American Irish Historical Society, and Ancient Order of Hibernians, traveled to Mount Vernon in order to visit Washington's tomb.[4] All Irish Americans were invited to the ceremony on the 16th, and many families with the Barry surname were in attendance. Approximately 10,000 people traveled to Washington, D.C., for the event, many coming by train at Washington Union Station.[13]

People watching the dedication ceremony parade
People watching the dedication ceremony parade
President Woodrow Wilson in the reviewing stand
President Woodrow Wilson in the reviewing stand

Before the ceremony began, there was a parade leading to the memorial, and many buildings along the way were decorated with U.S. flags. Amongst those who marched in the parade were Irish American organization members, and active and retired members of the military, including a large contingent of veterans. The parade began at 18th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, and after passing Lafayette Square, turned north on Madison Place to Vermont Avenue. The parade then walked north to I Street and traveled to 14th Street, reaching Franklin Square. After walking past the review stand, the parade ended a few blocks north at Thomas Circle.[14]

Prominent people in attendance included President Woodrow Wilson and some of his cabinet members, and Supreme Court justices. Members of the U.S. military, including the army and navy, were also in attendance. The Senate and House of Representatives convened at 11am so that members could attend. Music during the ceremony was provided by the United States Marine Band and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.[14]

The invocation was given by Bishop Alfred Harding. This was followed by a speech from Representative James A. Hamill who listed Barry's achievements. The Marine Band played additional music before a speech was made by Asa Bird Gardiner, secretary general of the Society of the Cincinnati, who paid tribute not only to Barry, but other military heroes of the Revolutionary War. The unveiling was done by Elise H. Hepburne, a descendant of Barry, while the Marine Band played The Star-Spangled Banner. President Wilson then gave a brief speech praising Barry. The day after the ceremony, a large banquet took place with the President and other government officials in attendance.[4]

Later history[edit]

On July 14, 1978, a group of 14 American Revolution Statuary, including the Barry memorial, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The following year on March 3, 1979, the group of statues was added to the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites. On April 24, 1997, the memorial was included as a contributing property to the L'Enfant Plan, added to the NRHP on April 24, 1997.[15]

Location and design[edit]

Allegorical figure representing Victory
The female allegorical figure representing Victory

The memorial is located on the western edge of Franklin Square, facing 14th Street, and between I and K Streets NW.[16] The statue of Barry is approximately 8-feet (2.4 m) tall and made of bronze. He is depicted wearing his military uniforms of the Navy and Army, including a large cloak and a three-cornered hat. His left arm is reclined by his side and his right hand is holding a stack of papers resting on a sword. His left leg stands further out than the right, giving the appearance of him walking.[2][3][16]

The pedestal is approximately 15-feet (4.6 m) tall and 4-feet (1.2 m) wide. It is made of Knoxville pink marble while the base steps are made of pink granite. On the front of the pedestal is an allegorical female figure representing Victory and also made of Knoxville pink marble. Her right arm is raised, holding a laurel wreath, while an eagle rests under the arm. Her left hand is resting on the top of a sword. She has long hair that rests on her shoulders. Her outfit consists of a long robe which is tied at the chest and the waist.[2][3][16]

The inscription on the memorial reads:[17]
(Base, south face:)
(Base, front:)
(Base, east face:)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Commodore John Barry, (sculpture)". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Goode, James M. (1974). The outdoor sculpture of Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 280. ISBN 9780087471498.
  4. ^ a b c "Plan to Honor Father of Navy". The Washington Herald. March 8, 1914. p. 2. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  5. ^ Gurn, Joseph (2004). Commodore John Barry: Father of the American Navy. P. J. Kennedy & Sons. p. 274.
  6. ^ a b Griffin, Martin I. J. (1902). Commodore John Barry, "the father of the American navy"; the record of his services for our country. Harvard University.
  7. ^ a b c d O'Brien, Joseph J. (May 17, 1914). "How Barry Statue Had Its Inception". The Washington Herald. p. 8. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  8. ^ a b c "Work on Barry Statue is Showing Progress". The Evening Star. June 16, 1913. p. 10. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  9. ^ Bednar, Michael (2006). L'Enfant's Legacy: Public Open Spaces in Washington, D.C. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 149–150. ISBN 9780801883187.
  10. ^ "Commission Accepts Barry Statue Design". The Evening Star. December 22, 1911. p. 10. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  11. ^ "Commodore John Paul Jones, (sculpture)". Smithsonian Institution Research Information System. Archived from the original on October 3, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  12. ^ "Dedication of Barry Statue Is Deferred". The E. December 2, 1913. p. 3. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  13. ^ "Thousands to Be Invited to Barry Statue Rites". The Washington Times. March 29, 1914. p. 13. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  14. ^ a b "Chiefs of the Nation Present When Commodore Barry Statue Unveiled in Park". The Evening Star. May 16, 1914. pp. 1, 8. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  15. ^ "District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites" (PDF). District of Columbia Office of Planning - Historic Preservation Office. September 30, 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 31, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  16. ^ a b c "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form - American Revolution Statuary". National Park Service. October 3, 1977. Archived from the original on April 8, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  17. ^ "Commodore John Barry". National Park Service. Archived from the original on December 28, 2023. Retrieved December 28, 2023.

External links[edit]