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January 16, 1925

Professor of Italian Bruno Roselli announced he had solved the mystery of a marble head of Augustus Caesar recently sucked up from the bed of the Hudson River by the War Department dredger Raritan. Viewed by many experts and dignitaries, including Episcopal Bishop William Manning, the battered head was proclaimed original and its provenance baffling.

Dismissing the theory that the head—and perhaps an entire statue—had been used as ballast in a sailing vessel, Professor Roselli cited an essay written in 1836 by the French consul in Tripoli describing a collecting trip he had made in an American sloop in 1809 to the old Roman city of Leptis Magna with the American consul and a Captain Porter. Roselli posited that Porter had brought home some of the antiquities the party gathered as souvenirs of Stephen Decatur’s triumph over the Barbary pirates in 1804 and that this piece had accidently fallen into the Hudson.

A few days later, Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, president of the Patriotic New Yorkers, recalled a nursery rhyme from her childhood about “Julius Caesar at the bottom of the Hudson” which referred to a family story about a ferry-boat fire around 1830 that had sent a buggy, laden with four ancient sculptures en route from Manhattan to the New Jersey collection of her grandfather, John C. King, to the bottom of the river. The New York Times

The Years