Balto, 1925

Artist
Frederick George Richard Roth

Location
Located on the east side of Central Park; Northwest of the entrance to the Children's Zoo. [TK--SEE MAP ON WEBSITE OF CENTRAL PARK CONSERVANCY]

Description
The sculpture of Balto shows the husky sled dog from Alaska standing at the edge of an outcropping of rock. He is outfitted with harnessing gear, and leaning forward, ready to pull. He is alert and eager, with ears perked, and tail held high.

In the winter of 1925, Balto, along with a number of other sled dogs and their drivers, became national heroes when they successfully delivered a much-needed diphtheria serum to the isolated residents of Nome, Alaska.

At the time of the 1925 diphtheria outbreak, doctors in Nome had run out of the serum used to treat the potentially deadly respiratory infection. The nearest supply was in Anchorage—posing a serious delivery dilemma. In 1925, the train line from Anchorage reached only as far as Nenana, about 675 miles from Nome [1]. Airplane delivery was also not an option, as the only two airplanes in Alaska were open cockpit planes, and therefore in storage for the winter [2]. Without the proper medication, however, the disease posed a serious threat to the entire population of the city [3].

Officials turned, therefore, to local dogsled teams. They arranged for a relay of teams to travel along the Iditarod Trail, from Nenana to Nome. Despite dangerous conditions, the drivers delivered the serum in 5 days and 7 hours. Under normal circumstances, the trip would have taken a single driver and dog team 15 to 20 days [4].

As the lead dog of the final leg of the journey, Balto received much attention. In addition to the sculpture of Balto in Central Park, he has been the subject of a children’s book and an animated movie.

The events of January, 1925 are still commemorated today in the annual Iditarod race, in which dogsled teams retrace the entire path of the diphtheria serum from Anchorage to Nome.

Possible discussion themes
How does the sculpture of Balto fit with its surroundings?
Balto is a sculpture celebrating the heroism of an animal. Its animal theme can be said to relate to the park as a whole, as well as to the nearby Central Park Zoo. How is the piece affected by the space around it? How is the section of the park where the sculpture is located affected by the placement of the sculpture?

Related art works
There are various other animal-themed sculptures in the area of Central Park near Balto. These works include:
      Still Hunt.
      The Delacorte Clock.

Footnotes

  1. Lewis, N. (Mar., 1999). "Alaska’s canine hero charted a world-famous path." Dog Fancy Magazine. p. 50.
  2. Thomas, Jr., R. M. (Jan. 24, 1999). "Edgar Nollner, 94, dies; Hero in epidemic." The New York Times. p. 41, col. 1.
  3. McHugh, P. (Mar. 16, 1998). "A dog beat dog world: legend has it a husky named Balto saved the day in Alaskan history." The San Francisco Chronicle. p. A3.
  4. Thomas, Jr., R. M.
 

 
 
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