Major General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (1942)

The statue of Major General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg that resides on the main green of Muhlenberg has been a fixture on campus since its dedication ceremony on May 28, 1942. It was a gift of the Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania. The sculpture is a replica of the monument that currently resides in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building, representing the state of Pennsylvania. It was chosen for the Capitol as well as for Muhlenberg College because of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg’s significance in American history as a Revolutionary War general and former US Congressman. He was also one of the sons of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the namesake of the college. Because the sculpture was constructed during World War II and its subsequent shortage of certain materials, the original piece was not made of bronze – rather a compound that did not contain any metals. However, it was announced at the dedication that the plan was to construct a permanent monument in bronze when possible. The dedication also took place during a bicentennial celebration of Henry Muhlenberg’s arrival to America and a speech was presented by Frederick A. Muhlenberg, one of Henry’s direct descendants. Students, faculty, and community members were also present at the ceremony.

In the 82 years that the sculpture has been present on campus, it has been a symbol for college life and activity. When the decision was made to allow women to enroll in 1957, students dressed him in women’s clothing. In 1967, he was again dressed in signs protesting American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1996, during the 225th anniversary of Henry Muhlenberg’s arrival in America, he was adorned with a celebratory wreath. 

The sculpture is intended to depict a very specific moment in John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg’s life. Allegedly, when he stepped down from his position of clergyman during the Revolutionary War, he announced to his congregation in Virginia, “There is a time to preach and a time to pray. But there is also a time to fight, and that time has come now.” He then removed his robes to reveal an officer's uniform underneath.

The Muhlenberg Weekly (1941-1942)