The Memorial Story
George Westinghouse died in 1914. Sixteen
years later, some 55,000 workers at his former firms decided they wanted to
do something to honor him. To that end, the employees chipped in to erect a
monument in Pittsburgh, the heart of Westinghouse’s industrial empire.
$200,000 ($2,500,000 in today’s dollars) was raised. The project took five
years to complete. The Westinghouse Memorial is located in Schenley Park,
not far from the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.
Eric Fisher Wood designed the monument and the surrounding landscape,
including the pond, trees, and location of black granite benches. Hornbostel
designed more than 225 buildings, bridges, and monuments in the United
States: 110 of which are in the Pittsburgh area. Significant ones nearby
Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial,
Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts, and the initial campus design of
Carnegie Mellon University. Wood, in addition to being an architect and
civil engineer, was an officer in the U.S. Army during both World War I and
II, retiring with the rank of Brigadier General. Wood was one of the key
founders of the American Legion veterans' organization.
The organizers chose sculptor
French, perhaps the most famous sculptor of all time, who also created
the statue in the Lincoln Memorial, to design the sculptures, including a
statue titled “The Spirit of American Youth,” a snapshot of a young man
taking inspiration from the life of Westinghouse. Critics have called this
bronze sculpture “the finest portrayal of American boyhood,” The monument is
a beautiful allegory. An all-American boy (surely one of French’s best
works) stands in the prow of a boat, his hat in one hand and books in the
other, and learns about the incredible accomplishments of the genius
Westinghouse, opened up in front of him like a scroll. You can read the
wonder on his face, and in the careless way he crumples his hat, as if he
had completely forgotten it was in his hand. His sweater is pushed up from
all that absentminded fiddling with the hat. The message is clear: future
generations will judge Westinghouse by his fruits, and they will be
The center portion of the monument depicts Westinghouse between a mechanic
and an engineer, with the surrounding panels created by sculptor
illustrating Westinghouse’s achievements. All the bronze figures and reliefs
were originally covered in gold leaf, but the work of vandals forced the
removal of the gold leaf in 1941.
Few venture behind the Westinghouse Memorial, but a special reward awaits
those who do. Instead of a blank wall, the reliefs are as detailed as the
ones in front,
seemingly portraying the aesthetic legitimacy that the monument must have a
logical foundation to back up the front truths.
Masaniello Piccirilli’s name is included as
one of the sculpture artists on the back of the Westinghouse Memorial, along
with Daniel Chester French and Paul Fjelde.
The Piccirilli Family, father and six sons, were renowned marble carvers and
sculptors who carved a large number of the most significant marble
sculptures in the United States, including Daniel Chester French’s colossal
Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.
At that time, most prominent sculptors would create their original work in
clay. From that clay model a caster would generate a plaster model. The
model would then be sent to the Piccirilli Brothers who would carve it from
stone, typically marble, although limestone and granite were also used. The
brothers became the carvers of choice for a large number of American
sculptors of the time including Daniel Chester French.
When the Piccirilli Brothers studio closed it doors, no move was made to
secure their records, so the accounts of much of what they had accomplished
What part of the Memorial work was performed by Piccirilli in not yet known.
The Dedication Plaque located on the back side reads:
This memorial unveiled October 6, 1930, in
honor of George Westinghouse is an enduring testimonial to the esteem,
affection and loyalty of 60,000 employees of the great industrial
organizations of which he was the founder. In his later years rightly called
“The Greatest Living Engineer”, George Westinghouse accomplished much of
first importance to mankind through his ingenuity, persistence, courage,
integrity and leadership. By the invention of the air brake and of automatic
signaling devices, he led the world in the development of appliances for the
promotion of speed, safety and economy of transportation. By his early
vision of the value the alternating current electric system, he brought
about a revolution in the transmission of electric power. His achievements
were great, his energy and enthusiasm boundless, and his character beyond
reproach; a shining mark for the guidance and encouragement of American
On dedication day, nearly 15,000 people
crowded the memorial site to hear the speeches and bands that were part of
the festivities. A lavish banquet for the movers and shakers who came to
honor Westinghouse was held the night before at the William Penn Hotel.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described the scene for a Page 1
story in the Oct. 7, 1930, issue:
On the eighty-fourth anniversary of the
inventor's birth, the nations of the world joined hands in extolling the
character of the man who had rendered an "inestimable service to mankind and
whose contributions to industry played so large a part in the progress of
An admiring crowd that began to gather in the
park during the early afternoon grew to immense proportions before the
program was started and stretched far out over the adjoining hillsides with
thousands content to stand through the proceedings.
The keynote speaker was James Frances Burke, general counsel of the
Republican National Committee:
It was he who first made safety the
handmaiden of speed. It was he who was a leader in multiplying the world's
motive power on land and sea. It was he who brightened the pathway and
lightened the burden of God's children as they toiled and traveled on their
never-ending journey down the ages.
After Burke's address, the unveiling took
place to the accompaniment of the combined Westinghouse bands, and the
Westinghouse and Union Switch and Signal Company employee choruses sang the
“Star Spangled Banner” and “America.” The Right Rev. Alexander Mann, bishop
of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, gave the invocation.
The Press also set the scene in a Page 2 feature:
Men from workshops which rest their
foundations on the inventive genius of Westinghouse joined with leaders
assembled from throughout the nation in dedicating the George Westinghouse
Memorial in Schenley Park yesterday.
U.S. Rep. James M. Beck of Philadelphia said:
George Westinghouse was a master builder of this economic nation, which is
more truly represented by the genius ability of this country than the
documents of all its lawyers,” and Pittsburgh mayor Charles H. Kline said:
“Time may cause this memorial to decay, but when a thousand years have
passed, the readers of history will find still brilliant the name of George
In a statement sent by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon to be read at the
ceremony, he wrote, "George Westinghouse earned an important and permanent
place in history by his many contributions to the advancement of
This was the lead of the story that was buried inside the Hearst-owned
Industrial giants of many nations paid
tribute yesterday to the memory of a boy who toyed with trinkets -- to
George Westinghouse, who gave the world 400 inventions and almost
single-handed revolutionized modern mechanics.
In a supposedly exclusive column for the
Sun-Tribune, but which bears the name of the McClure Newspaper Syndicate,
Calvin Coolidge wrote from Boston:
George Westinghouse had that combination
which is so rare of both inventive and business genius. Because he lived,
industrial life is more human, more safe and more productive. He ranks as
one of the great benefactors of mankind.