Town of Smithtown Celebrates the Iconic “Whisper” the Bull Statue’s 80th Anniversary Watching Over Smithtown
Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and the town administration joined with State, County & Local Elected Officials, Smithtown Historical Society, and direct descendants of Richard “Bull” Smith; Mayor Richard Smith and cousin Jennifer Smith, to wish the iconic bull statue a happy 80th anniversary, early yesterday morning. On Monday, May 10th, 2021, the rain cleared up long enough to mark the occasion, celebrating 80 years of “Whisper” watching over the community. The iconic statue was first unveiled to the people of Smithtown on May 10th, 1941.
“Our hope is that parents will share with their children this little piece of our history today, maybe even share in some fond memories. Whisper has not had it easy. He’s survived more than a few car accidents, several teenage pranks, including some folks up here with us today… when they were younger of course. In my former career as Parks Director, I could attest to the fact that poor Whisper has been through a lot in his 80 years in Smithtown. So let’s give Whisper a day of praises and good wishes as he continues to watch over the Community.” - Supervisor Ed Wehrheim
Lawrence Smith Butler, a descendent of Richard Smith, originally proposed the idea of the statue to his friend, Long Island Sculptor Charles Cary Rumsey. Whisper was originally designed in France by Rumsey. The casting of the statue was completed in 1923. The bull was brought to the United States where it first stood for some time in front of the Brooklyn Museum, before it was placed in storage. Upon Rumsey’s death, his heirs donated the statue to the Town. In 1941, Butler swayed the Smithtown Town Board to construct a concrete pedestal and raised the $1,750 needed to cover the cost of the move. Through his efforts, Lawrence Smith Butler arranged for the transport of the fourteen-foot, five-ton bronze bull, by way of trucking and rail. On May 10, 1941, the daughter of sculptor Charles Cary Rumsey, Mary Rumsey, presented the statue to the people of Smithtown, set on its pedestal at the Head of the Nissequogue River.
“Many thanks to Laurence Butler. It was his friend, Charles Rumsey, who crafted this bull. It’s been a welcome site to all of us who live here as well as all who visit Smithtown. I also want to give a special thanks to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, his entire team, and to Joe Arico and the Parks Department. They work so hard every day, doing an incredible job maintaining this statue and our beautiful parks and grounds.” - Mayor Richard Smith, Nissequogue Mayor and direct descendant of Richard “Bull” Smith
Town Historian Bradley Harris reminded everyone during the ceremony that Smith got the deed for the land; known today as Smithtown, from his friend Lion Gardiner. While the legendary story behind Richard Smith’s bull ride may be mere folklore, the iconic statue remains a prominent piece of historic artwork in the township.
In 2019, the Town completed renovations to the monument. Revitalization efforts included the restoration of the concrete base, a new freestanding wall, complete with a “Town of Smithtown” sign, landscaping, and energy efficient lighting. The Town Parks Department is expected to add seasonal plantings surrounding the bull later this month.
James Cress Florist in Smithtown created and donated the bow placed on the monument to commemorate the occasion.
DID YOU KNOW?
The legend: Richard Smith was gifted the land now known as Smithtown for his assistance in rescuing the kidnapped daughter of a Montauk Chief. The Town’s limits were determined by the distance he could ride his bull over the course of one day.
The Truth: Lion Gardiner received a primary portion of the land now known as Smithtown from Grand Sachem Wyandanch, for helping to arrange the safe return of the chief's daughter, who was kidnapped on her wedding night. Gardiner later transferred the rights to the land to Smith. The possession of the land was confirmed by a patent granted to Smith on March 3, 1665.