The “Cleopatra” Needle Obelisk

Posted by Chris Parker
Apr 14 2006

This obelisk, weighing 224 tons was created from a single block of rock in Egypt approximately 3,500 years before it was moved to New York’s central park. It took more than four months to accomplish the task. Think about it, an ancient civilization built something which the technology of the day, some 3,500 year later could move only at the linits of the then current technology. It makes it all the more woundrous that people living at such an early date could build such wonders.Oh, and 225 tons? The monoliths at Baalbek weighed from 4 to 5 times as much, the largest weighing some 2 million pounds. 

Another unique moment in transportation history caught on film: probably the first time ever a steam locomotive had to grind to a halt to avoid hitting an ancient obelisk crossing the tracks. The seventy-foot obelisk-shaped crate dwarfs a locomotive on a riverside track. The locomotive is a classic design with a large lantern headlight, a cowcatcher, and a large bell suspended on a fancy bracket. She hauls a long line of boxcars marked “Milwaukee Line”, “Detriot, Grand Haven, Milwaukee Railway”, “C.S.L.”, and possibly “Canada Southern Line”.  

The obelisk crate is perpendicular to the tracks with its base still over the railbed. Just behind the crate is the dock at the 96th Street or possibly the 51st Street tie-up.. Under and ahead of the crate is a temporary slideway made of huge wooden beams. Further ahead is a taught length of anchor chain attached to a large block-and-tackle outfitted with a lot of rope. 

 It seems as though the plan is to pull the obelisk forward little-by-little, removing wood from the slideway’s rear after the crate passes over, and then placing the wood at the front end to allow further movement forward.This is the beginning of the four-month-long journey inch-by-inch to Central Park.  The crowd of around 60 people includes workers and various officials. …In the distance is the river with a few clippers, schooners, or brigs sailing along. The image measures 10 1/2 by 7 3/4 inches and is printed on matte finish heavy paper. Stamped in the lower left: ARTOTYPE. Stamped lower right: HAROON & BIERSTADT, N.Y. General info about the obelisk:    

Featured on the PBS series “Nova” and in many other media, the famous “Cleopatra’s Needle” obelisk located in Central Park behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of a pair which once stood at an Egyptian temple. It’s companion now stands in London.”Cleopatra’s Needle” is a romantic nickname; the 3,500-year-old obelisk is actually much older than the time of her reign. By order of Pharaoh Thothmes III, it was carved —from a single megalith of rosy Syene granite.It was raised around 1500 BC at Heliopolis (known in the Bible as On, the birthplace of Moses). 

Carved hieroglyphic dedications celebrate pharaohs Rameses II and Thothmes. The Romans, by order of Augustus, moved it to Alexandria. To strengthen the worn-down corners at the obelisk’s base, Romans placed 900 pound crab-shaped bronze support brackets. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, the Turkish-appointed ruler of Egypt, Khedive Ismail, hoped to increase interest in Egypt as a world trade partner by offering the magnificent gift of an obelisk to the USA.Some sources say that Ismail assumed that no way could be found to actually move it. 

Owners of the newspaper New York World remembered the offer and later helped make arrangements.William H. Vanderbilt bankrolled an engineering expedition to move the obelisk to New York City. U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Henry Gorringe, a Freemason (New York A.S. Lodge 137) with a keen interst in Egyptian building and measurement techniques, was sent to take the obelisk in 1879-80.Building trestle towers on either side of the obelisk and attaching a pivot at the obelisk’s middle, his work crew pulled the obelisk into a horizontal position of this series shows the obelisk just after the pivot operation began). They lowered it to the ground and after a long while, managed to move it to the shore.

There being no crane able to bear such a load, they removed some of the wood from the bow of a ship and slid it horizontally into the vessel. of this series shows a pre-shipping inspection: a panel of the crate removed to show the obelisk’s surface, the temporary hole in the steamship Dessoug partly covered with a tarp). After crossing the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, the ship reached New York harbor of this series shows the obelisk-shaped crate blocking a locomotive’s path on its way out of the

After another four months of hauling work, including travel over a short span of specially-constructed wooden trestle, the obelisk reached it’s destination: the scenic Central Park hill called Graywacke Knoll. The U.S. Secretary of State was among the notables speaking at the installation ceremony whose crowd numbered over 10,000. The parade had almost 10,000 marchers and over 50,000 streetside spectators.

Source

 

 

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Trackback URL for this entry