Henry Honychurch Gorringe (August 11, 1841-July 7, 1885) was a United States naval officer who attained national acclaim for successfully completing the removal of Cleopatra's needle from Alexandria, Egypt to Central Park, New York City.
Henry Honychurch Gorringe was born in Barbados on August 11, 1841. His father served as rector to St. Michael's Cathedral. Young Henry came to the United States at a young age, entering the merchant marine.
When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Union Navy. He quickly received many promotions during his service with the Mississippi squadron, reaching the rank of Acting-Volunteer Lieutenant. He remained in the Navy following the war, spending time in the Mediterranean from 1876-1878. In 1875, he discovered the underwater mountain range now known as the Gorringe Sea Bank. That same year he authored a book on the exploration of the Rio De La Plata.
Moving Cleopatra's Needle
In 1879, Gorringe put in an application for the contract to remove the obelisk of Thutmosis III from Alexandria to Central Park. His was the only complete plan, and in August 1879, he was granted the contract, for which he was to be paid $75,000.
Gorringe and his assistant, Seaton Schroeder, left for Europe to purchase materials and then went to Alexandria to be about the business of moving the obelisk. While in Egypt, Gorringe encountered local opposition, diplomatic obstruction from European countries, technical problems, and obstruction from local authorities. He was able to overcome them all and successfully departed from Alexandria in June 12, 1880. They arrived in Staten Island on July 20, right on schedule.
Gorringe had to commission a special railway to carry the 200 ton obelisk from the shipyards to Central Park. It was finally erected on January 22, 1881.
Later Career and Death
Gorringe wrote Egyptian Obelisks, a book about the expedition to retrieve the obelisk and a study of the other standing obelisks in Paris and London. He died on July 7, 1885, the result of an accident the previous winter while jumping from a moving train. His friend erected a miniature copy of Cleopatra's Needle over Gorringe's grave. He is buried in Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, New York.
Egyptian Obelisks. Gorringe, Henry Honychurch. Self published, 1885. The New York Obelisk. D'Alton, Martina. Metropolitan Museum of Art Books.