Vulcan is the largest cast metal* statue in the world. It is located on Red Mountain in Birmingham, Al. Some notable features include the fact that it is bare assed, the giant rocket pop which it raises over the city for all to see, and the fact that it isn't there right now.
As for the bare assed thing, one can only guess why, but Vulcan is positioned such that it moons the city of Homewood, a large suburb directly south of Birmingham. Homewood (according to local legend anyhow) unsuccessfully sued to have Vulcan face the other way. Frontal areas are covered by his work apron.
For indeed, Vulcan has been at work, with his anvil hammer beside him and raising a spearhead to the sun to inspect. Only, in the early 80's, the city put giant neon lights on the spearhead. If the lights are green, it means that there have been no deaths in traffic accidents in Birmingham that day; if the lights are red, it means people did die. With the lights attached, it looks like a rocket pop, but with only one flavor instead of three. During Operation Desert Storm, all the lights were changed to yellow, to go along with the yellow ribbon thing. Certain less creative people think the spearhead plus lights looks like a dildo.
The problem with giant iron statues with giant arms hanging over residential areas of the city (and supported on the interior by iron) is that iron rusts. Recently, it was determined that the interior supports were weakened to the point that there was a significant risk of the arms falling off and crushing homes. So now the whole statue is disassembled and being refurbished.
I did a cursory search for information and found out some of the following:
Vulcan was created for the 1904 St. Louis World Fair (Subject of Take me to Saint Louis). Vulcan was chosen as the subject matter because of the correlation to Birmingham's steel industry, at the height of its boom at the turn of the 20th century. He measures 56 feet tall, and weighs in at over 120,000 pounds. The funding for this undertaking was provided mainly by the Kiwanis, not by the city. After the world fair, he was supposed to be given a park, but various civic groups objected to his bare ass, and only the state fairgounds would take him in.
In the state fairgrounds Vulcan was used primarily as a meeting place and a form of advertisement. At different times his spearhead was replaced with a pickle jar and a Coca-Cola bottle, and his bare ass had a pair of Liberty Blue Jeans painted on.
Sooner or later (ca 1936), his thumb fell off, and that set in motion the repairs that ultimately ended with him having his own park on top of Red Mountain.
* I was incorrect when previously I stated it was the largest wholly iron statue in the world, although it may well be. Right now it's in pieces in a warehouse, so it doesn't really count anyway, does it?
All the factual information is taken from the web address www.bham.net/vulcan/ with the notable exception that the repairs are underway now, and the article on bham.net was written before that.
- Robert Goddam