Charging Bull - The story behind the Wall Street Bull

nycLife | Charging Bull - The story behind the Wall Street Bull
nycLife | Charging Bull - The story behind the Wall Street Bull

The Wall Street Bull, synonymous with American stock market and big business, is an iconic fixture in New York City, drawing tourists globally to capture photos beside it. But what's the tale behind its fame?

I'm here to enlighten you on its origins and journey to prominence. Discover the essence of the Charging Bull and optimal ways to relish its presence during your NYC visit.

How the Wall Street Bull Started: A Visionary Artist

Behind the Charging Bull, also known as the Wall Street Bull, there is a classic NYC story of dreams.

The creator of the Charging Bull sculpture is an Italian-American artist, Arturo Di Modica, born in Sicily in 1941. He started to practice sculpturing as a teen and later moved to Florence, after which he gained wide recognition in all over Italy. A city that continues to energize: He arrived in New York in the '70s, like so many artists before him. Drawn by the energy of the city, Di Modica opened his studio on Grand Street, in what is today's SoHo.

His work with the bull began after the stock market crash in 1987. Di Modica thought he owed something to the Americans for accepting him all those years ago and helping him in his career as a sculptor.

Charging Bull cost Di Modica $360,000 from his own personal funds to create. He wanted to inspire the public to keep on striving in difficult times and to pay respect to the fortitude of the business professional American. The "bull" was adopted for the "bull" (or rising) market and strong economy – a state everyone was fighting for after the crash.

Arrival of The Bull in Lower Manhattan

The hefty sculpture weighs over 7,000 pounds and rises to a height of 11 feet tall. When time came for the unveiling of 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.

It was Dec. 15, 1989 - right in the heart of the holiday season. Di Modica figured the bull would fit ideally under the giant Christmas Tree on Broad Street as a kind of present for New Yorkers.

Though meant as an icon of prosperity, the New York Stock Exchange members were not at all happy about the free gift. The police department was called and the Charging Bull was taken away to an impound lot the same day.

Although its life in front of the stock exchange was short, it had captured the hearts of many New Yorkers, who demanded its return to the city. The Parks and Recreation department of New York complied, putting the statue at its new location - two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, rededicating the Charging Bull on Dec. 21, 1989.

It's a really great fun fact that Di Modica actually put the statue on sale, back in 2004. The only condition was that if someone would buy it, then it could never be moved. Today, the piece is still unsold, and Di Modica still holds the copyright.

Where to Find the Wall Street Bull?

The Charging Bull may be found at the Financial District, just directly north of Bowling Green Park along Broadway a few steps south of the intersection with Morris Street.

The bull is in a small cobblestone square, but the streets on the sides are very busy, so be careful and cross only if the place is safe.

This famous icon is one of the most recognizable statues located on Wall Street, but there is much more to be seen when you visit the Financial District.

Consider these other sights located near by as well:

  • Trinity Church, final resting place of Alexander Hamilton
  • The New York Stock Exchange
  • Federal Hall
  • The 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • Battery Park & the ferry to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Best time to visit the bull

Other city monuments like the Statue of Liberty, for example, while most have to get a ticket and pay some admission fee, in the case of the Charging Bull, this is not so. It stands basically in the middle of the street, so visiting is more like a free-for-all in terms of one's access.

At times, the crowds could get too dense, and people would wait for up to 30 minutes just to take a picture. Do show up early if you don't want to deal with the crowds.

By the middle of the day, there will be dozens of people lined up at the front of the bull for an ideal picture. Otherwise, the best shot is to come 7-8 a.m., when most probably there will be almost nobody there. After 6 p.m. often has fewer people, though depending on the time of year, it may be dark by then.

Visiting tip: You can also make a visit in winter, which is a good time with lighter crowds as long as it isn't too close to the holidays. You might even see the bull wearing a blanket of snow.

Best Way to Visit the Charging Bull

Most people come by and take that quick snapshot, but we think that seeing the bull in the wider context of the Financial District gives it just that little bit more power.

Experience Lower Manhattan on one of our two great guided tours of the Charging Bull and 400 years of history leading to Wall Street, from its humble beginnings as a Dutch trading outpost.

Start your tour through the Financial District of NYC with the billion-dollar financial institutions that shaped not just the economy of America but much of the global economy too. From there, take a walking tour replete with history, commerce, and art—Di Modica’s sculpture.
And here's a partial at a glance itinerary:

  • New York Stock Exchange
  • Wall Street
  • Federal Hall
  • Stone Street
  • Charging Bull
  • Trinity

As you can see, our bull is right in the middle. More than just some piece of art or a photo-op, it's what the Wall Street Bull symbolizes that makes it so interesting. Our critically acclaimed guides can tell you more – and answer all your Wall Street questions, too.

A Bull That Continues to Inspire

Years after having gained fame and popular attention, the Charging Bull gained new headlines with Kristen Visbal's Fearless Girl sculpture put in front of it. The installation celebrated International Women's Day on March 7, 2017. Just like the bull, the girl was a surprise to many New Yorkers as it wasn't announced publicly.

The concept of the statue is thus to empower women by companies and thus to recruit women with a respectable percentage, especially for top-level posts in their organization. In only 48 hours, a young girl who was confidently eyeing the bull was already giving inspiration to so many people around her that they started signing petitions to have her stuck around for good. Fearless Girl was given another 30 days and then, finally, a whole year.

But Di Modica was not so impressed by her, and wound up challenging the city officials who 'gave' her permission to stay. A compromise was worked out, and in December 2018, Fearless Girl moved to the front of the New York Stock Exchange, looking down one more symbol of financial power. Tour's tip: Right at the spot where the Fearless Girl has been located, there is an indication in the ground on how to stand on the place of the original statute and look right into the eyes of the bull.

The Aftermath of the Charging Bull

It is surely never a dull day in the life of the Charging Bull. Being sneaked into the Financial District overnight and becoming an accidental celebrity—it's been quite a ride.

And most folks today really have no idea why the statue is famous in the first place. All they know is that it's on the bucket list of things to see in NYC. But, as you can tell from the stories above, it's definitely fitting for the bull to be in the Financial District—and in New York City.
More than 30 years later, the Charging Bull has become an icon. Like the city and business men and women it was meant to represent, the bull stands strong and proud as it always has.

Want more things to do in the Wall Street? Check out more articles in our Wall Street section.



NYC blogger sharing my adventures. I'm always looking for new things to do in New York, from discovering hidden treasures and attempting the current trends to finding the best food, drink, & shopping.
Manhattan, New York, United States