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Marconi Monument Story


The Marconi Monument History 

The history of the monument to Marconi and the Four Chaplains at Church Square Park in Hoboken, NJ is a very interesting one with lots of twists and turns.  It is a colorful reminder of the importance of diversity and adaptability as well as the rich history that makes Hoboken so wonderful.  The story of the monument starts before World War 2 in 1939.

John Minervini was born in Molfetta, Italy in 1900 and immigrated to the United States in 1904. John was a successful merchant in Hoboken and active member of the Hoboken Chapter of UNICO National.  After seeing the World’s Fair in 1939, John was granted permission to erect a 12-ton, 17-foot-high statue depicting “Wireless Holding the World” to honor both his Italian heritage and his idol Guglielmo Marconi the “Father of Radio.”

The 1939 World’s Fair was held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York.  The Italian Pavilion entrance featured a 200-foot-high waterfall dedicated to Marconi.  At the base of the waterfall was a pedestal with a relief portrait of Marconi and above him was the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva.  In keeping with the Art Deco-Modernism designs, the statue of Minerva was a nude figure holding one of her sacred creatures, an owl. (link to colorized picture)

When World War 2 started, many of the Axis pavilions were removed or demolished. Italy was one of those pavilions that was targeted to be taken down. After the fair closed, the Italian Pavilion officials were in no position to ship the statue back, and it ended up in Brooklyn. It remained unnoticed on a Brooklyn pier for more than a decade.  Through his olive oil import business, John Minervini came across the statue and acquired it for the planned Hoboken monument.

Around 1954, the monument pedestal was put into place and plans to complete the monument by placing the statue of Minerva on top took shape. Eye-witness accounts at the time recount that the original huge statue was a “voluptuous white female.” The workers recounted that “while trying to place the statue, it became top-heavy, toppled over, and broke off at about the knees.”  Unfortunately for the statue of Minerva, it was damaged beyond repair and the damaged statue was buried in a lot owned by Minervini Madison and Fourth Streets. 

While that was the end of the line for Minerva, the pedestal still needed a “topper”.  Mayor Grogan and John Minervini came up with a plan to create a new monument to top the pedestal which would also honor the memory of the Four Chaplains.  In 1958, John Minervini traveled to Italy to make arrangements for a new statue to be sculptured by Arturo Dazzi .  The plans now called for a column monument topped with an Eagle depicting Marconi as “Wireless Holding the Heart of the World” along with superimposed images of the Four Chaplains. In 1961, the new statue made of Carrara marble was imported from Italy. In May of that year, the new sculpture was put into place.  For many years, the Hoboken Chapter of UNICO held wreath-laying ceremonies two times a year at the monument: on April 26th in celebration of Marconi’s birth and again on July 20th the date of his death. 

Four Chaplin’s Day ceremonies and services are held each year on or around February 3.  In 1998, February 3 of that year was established by senate resolution as Four Chaplains Day to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the sinking of United States Army transport Dorchester and subsequent heroism of these men.  Every year Hoboken honors the day with a ceremony organized by the American Legion Post 107 and attended by City Officials, Hoboken Scout Troop 146.  

In 1998, Rabbi Goode‘s daughter, Elizabeth Fine attended the February 1998 wreath-laying in Hoboken and recounted how her father’s story affected her childhood.

In 2022, Scout Troop 146 created an Eagle Scout project to tell the monument’s story, clean and beautify the monument.