For some reason I always assumed this sculpture was about wine. That muscled, bare-footed figure evokes for me a beautiful Greek god (Dionysus, Greek god of wine?). Even on a typical foggy day in the park, he conjures a warm day in late summer, the grape harvest, abandonment to the pleasures of the vine. Wrong! Those are actually apples scattered around the base of the sculpture, which actually depicts a cider press. Perhaps that’s because the sculptor, Thomas Shields-Clarke was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where apples are no doubt much more common than grapes, especially in 1892 when this statue was made? It was cast in Paris though, (by Jaboeuf and Bezout) so maybe that’s where it picked up the whiff of wine? In any case, Michael de Young and the Midwinter Fair Commission purchased it and exhibited it at the Midwinter Fair in 1894. It was originally a drinking fountain, but the metal cup that used to be attached by a chain disappeared long ago, along with the water.
Which set me to wondering about when and where public drinking fountains were invented. Turns out modern, sanitary drinking fountains first appeared in public spaces in this country in the early 1900s and two inventors apparently share credit. Halsey Taylor, in Ohio, developed a fountain prototype after his father died of typhoid, which he contracted after drinking contaminated water. Around the same time Luther Haws, a part time plumber and sanitary inspector in Berkeley, developed a faucet designed for drinking after inspecting a public school and seeing children sharing a tin cup attached to a fountain. The Halsey Taylor Company and the Haws Company are still prominent in the public drinking fountain business.