Balto became famous after a heroic journey across Alaska. In January 1925, an outbreak of diphtheria threatened the population of the town of Nome, Alaska. Weather conditions prevented the transport of vaccines from Anchorage by plane. A relay of dog-sled teams and mushers provided the only alternative. Twenty teams carried the vaccine almost 700 miles in blizzard conditions, a trip that took remarkably only five days and seven hours. They braved minus 30-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, ice floes, and 5,000-foot mountain peaks.
The rescue operation was chronicled in radio and newspapers. It captured the imagination of people all over the world, with Balto, who led the last relay team through some of the worst conditions of the journey, receiving the most attention. A group of dog-lovers and New Yorkers eager to honor this feat, were successful in raising money and petitioning the City to include a monument to Balto in Central Park. Ten months after completing the trip to Nome, Balto traveled to New York City by plane for the unveiling of the monument on December 17, 1925.
Togo, another sled dog who assisted with the famous Nome rescue mission has a bronze statue in a Seward Park in Lower Manhattan.
Balto’s sculptor, Frederick Roth, who went on to become the head sculptor for New York’s Parks Department from 1934 to 1936, is the most represented artist in Central Park. His other works include the Sophie Loeb Fountain in the James Michael Levin Playground, Mother Goose at Rumsey Playfield, and Dancing Goat and Honey Bear at the Zoo.
Balto’s story still captivates children and has inspired books, toys, and a movie. His enduring fame has made the sculpture in Central Park a destination for children who like to climb over its surfaces.
Things you can do here
Journey through the center of Central Park.
Tags: Kids and Families / Art & Architecture
Spot more than 70 species of trees on this beautiful walk up the east side.
Tags: Plants and Trees
Also in the area
In January 1925, a deadly diphtheria epidemic threatened the children of Nome, Alaska. Medicine to stop the outbreak was in Anchorage, nearly 700 miles away. Twenty sled dog teams relayed the medicine from Nenana to Nome, by way of the Iditarod Trail, in just over five days. Balto, a hardy Siberian husky, led the final leg of the trip.
Tags: Monuments / Best for Kids / Art Lovers
Central Park is the setting for many terrific stories. Here’s a collection of children’s books—set in the Park—that are recommended by the New York Public Library.
Tags: Best for Kids