“What exactly was this supposed to symbolize?” A Pyramid of German Helmets before Grand Central Station in 1918

November 15, 2015 in News by D

Pyramid of German helmets near Grand Central Terminal: black-and-white photoprint, ca. 1918: View of the employees of the New York Central Railroad, assembled in Victory Way, showing the pyramid of captured German helmets, with Grand Central Terminal in the background. Two cannons are shown at the left and right. [Source]

Any history buffs know what figure lies at the top of the pyramid? Some commenters have speculated that it may be Nike the Goddess of Victory.

Beyond a well-framed shot, I find this photograph interesting for the symbolism, sociological impact and historical significance. Many people may find the sight of so many ‘enemy’ helmets too macabre with each helmet representing a dead or captured soldier. And how does such a public display affect the psyche of citizens? To be located near Grand Central Terminal means it would have been seen by a lot of people.

The cannons in the foreground, the numerous flags, the eagles atop the pillars; the symbolism in this shot is very powerful. And what of the pyramid itself? Is it a frame with just an exterior lining of helmets, or does the entire structure consist of them?