Houdon Statue of George Washington
From GW Encyclopedia
A 1938 article in the Hatchet student newspaper commented that a “perennial favorite among the practical jokers on the campus is the stunt of forcing the bronze likeness of George Washington to ‘smoke’ a cigar butt. Outside of noticing this desecration, few students have given a second thought to the statue.” Now, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story. This 6’8” statue was purchased in 1931 in celebration of the Bicentennial of Washington's birth in 1932, and has been a feature of the campus since it was installed. Originally located in the University Yard, by the 1950s it was in the Lisner Library at 2023 G Street, then moved to the lower level of Lisner Auditorium after the Gelman Library opened in 1973. It was moved back to the University Yard in 1991, and is still the object of practical jokers. Created by French portrait sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), the statue is a cast of the artist’s marble original, located in the state Capital at Richmond, Virginia. In 1785, Houdon traveled to Mount Vernon where he took casts of Washington’s face, head, arms, hands and chest to create an absolute likeness of the former president. Three years later, Houdon completed the sculpture. To date, 22 replicas of the original exist. Homes to some of them include the Virginia Military Institute; Lafayette Park, St. Louis; the Metropolitan Museum of New York; and Trafalgar Square, London, England. GW’s replica was cast by the Gorham Company of Providence, Rhode Island.
Photographic Credit: Admissions Office/RG0053; Ron Howard papers/MS0766
Author or Source: By George, Summer 1991; John Russell Mason papers/MS0242; see also Hatchet Alumni Edition, Feb. 1932
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: December 21, 2006
Prepared by: Lyle Slovick
For more information about GW history
Special Collections Research Center 
The Melvin Gelman Library 
The George Washington University 
2130 H Street, NW Suite 704
Washington, DC 20052
Please send us your questions and comments about the encyclopedia.
This site is maintained by the Special Collections Research Center and the Web Development Group.