10 Little Known Facts About the Central Park Obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle)


  1. The obelisk set sail from Egypt on June 12, 1880, and reached New York a little over a month later.
  2. It took another five months for the artifact to reach Central Park.
  3. The obelisk’s pedestal weighs 50-tons, and it took 32 horses to pull it from West 51st Street to the park
  4. The monument was towed up the Hudson River to 96th Street on pontoons. A special rail track was built to move the obelisk through the city at a rate of one block perday.
  5. When the obelisk’s cornerstone was laid at Central Park’s Graywacke Knoll, close to East 81st Street, at least 9,000 Free­masons marched up Fifth Avenue to commemorate it with a ceremony
  6. Before it was erected, a time capsule was buried under its base with documents including the 1870 census, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and Webster’s Dictionary.
  7. New York merchants, including a needle company, doled out trading cards in honor of the artifact depicting the Queen of the Nile threading not a needle, but an obelisk.
  8. When the obelisk was erected, ladies wore mechanical lead pencils around their necks in the shape of the obelisk.
  9. A candy stand trailed the monument on the voyage to its new home, while another merchant sold “Cleopatra Dates” in an obelisk-shaped box.
  10. On Jan. 22, 1881, thousands of New Yorkers gathered to see the obelisk assembled two years after its journey from Alexandria


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