History of the Charging Bull (and How to See It)
The Charging Bull has become a universal symbol of the American stock market and big business. It’s also one of the most popular sights in New York City. Tourists travel from around the world to see the bronze beast, striking poses and snapping pictures in front of it.
It makes you wonder, how did it become so famous? Most people visiting don’t even know the story. Well, as a tour guide, that’s part of my job. I’m here to tell you where it all started and how the statue ended up where it is today.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Charging Bull, including the best way to experience it when you visit NYC.
How the Wall Street Bull Started: An Artist With Vision
Behind the Charging Bull, also called the Wall Street Bull, is a classic NYC dream story.
The creator of the Charging Bull sculpture, Arturo Di Modica, is an Italian-American artist, born in Sicily in 1941. He started sculpting as a teen and eventually moved to Florence, where he became well-known throughout Italy for his work. In the 70s, like many artists before him, he came to New York. Drawn to the city’s energy, Di Modica opened up a studio on Grand Street in modern day SoHo.
His work on the bull started after the stock market crash in 1987. Di Modica felt he owed something to Americans for accepting him all those years earlier and supporting his career as a sculptor.
Di Modica paid $360,000 of his own money in order to build Charging Bull. His goal was to inspire people to carry on through hard times and celebrate the perseverance of the American business professional. The bull was chosen to represent the “bull” (or rising) market and thriving economy — something everybody was fighting for after the crash.
The Bull Arrives in Lower Manhattan
The hefty sculpture weighs over 7,000 pounds and stands 11 feet tall. When the time came to display his grand artwork, Di Modica drove the bull into Manhattan on the back of a flatbed truck and illegally (guerilla-art style) placed the sculpture outside the New York Stock Exchange.
The date was Dec. 15, 1989, right in the middle of the holiday season. Di Modica thought the bull would fit perfectly under the giant Christmas Tree on Broad Street as a kind of gift to New Yorkers.
While it was meant to be a symbol of prosperity, members of the New York Stock Exchange did not take kindly to the free gift. The police department was called and, later that same day, the Charging Bull was taken away to an impound lot.
Even though it only lived a short life in front of the stock exchange, locals fell in love with the bull and demanded he be returned to the city. The New York Department of Parks and Recreation complied, placing the statue at its new location, two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, and rededicated the Charging Bull on Dec. 21, 1989.
Fun fact: Di Modica actually put the statue up for sale in 2004, with the promise that the buyer would never move it. As of today, it remains unsold and Di Modica still retains the copyright for the piece.
Where to Find the Wall Street Bull
You can find the Charging Bull in the Financial District. It stands directly north of Bowling Green Park, on Broadway, just below the intersection at Morris Street.
There’s a small plaza of cobblestone around the bull, but on either side are busy streets, so make sure to stay alert and don’t cross without first checking for cars.
While the statue is one of Wall Street’s most famous icons, there’s a lot more to see in the Financial District when you visit. Consider some of these other sights nearby as well:
- Trinity Church, gothic revival church and final resting place of Alexander Hamilton
- The New York Stock Exchange
- Federal Hall
- The 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Battery Park & the departure point for the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
The Best Time to Visit the Bull
Unlike other city monuments, like the Statue of Liberty, for example, the Charging Bull isn’t ticketed and there’s no cost for admission. It basically stands in the middle of the street, so visiting is pretty much a free-for-all. Crowds can get very dense and people will wait up to 30 minutes just to take a picture.
If you want to avoid the crowds, show up early. By mid-day, dozens of people will have lined up at the front of the bull for the ideal picture. If you show up 7-8 a.m., though, chances are there will be almost nobody there. Otherwise, after 6 p.m. often has fewer people, though depending on the time of year, it may be dark by then.
Guide tip: Winter can be a good time to visit, too, with lighter crowds as long as it’s not close to the holidays. You might even see the bull wearing a blanket of snow.
The Best Way to Visit the Charging Bull
Most people visit and snap a quick photo, but we think seeing the bull in the broader context of the Financial District makes it that much more powerful.
Visit Lower Manhattan on one of our two guided tours to learn about the Charging Bull and the 400 years of history that led to Wall Street, including humble origins as a Dutch trading outpost.
Start your tour through NYC’s Financial District with the billion-dollar financial institutions that shaped not just America’s economy but much of the global economy, too. From there, take a tour featuring history, commerce, and art — including Di Modica’s sculpture.
Here’s a partial itinerary at a glance:
- New York Stock Exchange
- Wall Street
- Federal Hall
- Stone Street
- Charging Bull
- Trinity Church
- Federal Reserve
As you can see, our bull is right in the middle. More than a piece of art or a photo op, it’s what the Wall Street Bull symbolizes that’s so fascinating. Our critically acclaimed tour guides can tell you more — and answer all your Wall Street questions, too.
A Bull That Still Inspires
After years of fame and popularity, the Charging Bull made headlines recently when Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl sculpture was placed in front of it. The installation was done in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 7, 2017. Much like the bull, the girl was a surprise to many New Yorkers, who were not aware that she would be unveiled.
The idea behind the statue is to promote female empowerment and encourage companies to recruit more women, particularly in leadership positions. The powerful image of a young girl confidently staring down the bull inspired so many people that, within just 48 hours, people were already signing petitions to have her stick around for good.
Fearless Girl was granted a 30-day extension and then eventually an entire year. However, Di Modica was not a fan of her presence and ended up challenging the city officials who elected her to stay. A compromise was struck, and in December of 2018, the Fearless Girl moved to the front of the New York Stock Exchange, staring down yet another symbol of financial power.
Guide tip: On the spot where Fearless Girl once stood is a marker with small footprints. You can stand in place of the original statute and stare right into the eyes of the bull.
The Legacy of the Charging Bull
There is never a dull moment in the life of the Charging Bull. From being sneaked into the Financial District overnight to becoming an accidental celebrity, it’s been quite the journey.
Nowadays, most visitors really have no idea why the statue is even famous in the first place. They just know that seeing the bull is a must on their NYC bucket list. But as you can tell from the stories above, there’s no denying just how perfectly the bull fits in the Financial District and in New York City.
Over 30 years later, the Charging Bull remains an icon. Like the city and business men and women it was built to celebrate, the bull stands strong and proud — as it will for years to come.
Looking for more to do in the Financial District? Check out our guide on how to take a trip down Stone Street, another stop on our Wall Street tour.