Few visitors to Central Park today recognize the author Fitz-Green Halleck (1790–1867), but he was one of the most popular poets in his time. After he died, friends created a committee to raise funds for a monument. Indicative of Halleck’s fame, the committee included prominent cultural figures such as William Cullen Bryant as well as Andrew Haswell Green, Samuel F.B. Morse, and General William Tecumseh Sherman, all of whom are also memorialized in the Park. They commissioned sculptor James MacDonald to create the bronze figure of Halleck. An estimated crowd of 10,000 attended the dedication ceremony in 1877 where President Rutherford B. Hayes unveiled the monument.
The monument to Halleck is significant as the first to an American in Central Park, at a time when American writers were still trying to establish themselves and their distinct point of view. It also came at a time when many of the other monuments in the Park were sponsored by groups of European immigrants eager to see their cultural icons represented in the City’s premier public space.