This Month in History: Heaphy Man Donated to OHA


1998—The six-foot Heaphy the sheet metal man, a landmark in front of Heaphy furnace and roofing shop at 133 North Geddes Street since the 1920s, was donated to Onondaga Historical Association in memory of James Heaphy, the firm’s deceased President and OHA board member. Today, the “Tin Man” stands guard at the entrance of the Onodnaga Historical Museum’s Gift Gallery Museum Store.

Various versions of the Tin Man were functional works of art that served to promote the family’s sheet metal shop and hardware store in Syracuse. The business was founded in 1892 alongside the Erie Canal, and the original product was mud flaps for horse-drawn wagons. The business gradually expanded to include sheet metal work, heating and hardware.

The Tin Man has had many forms, practically a stick form in its original incarnation it grew into a seven and a half foot 18 gauge iron colossus reinforced with heavy duty soil pipe submerged 4 feet into the ground and 5 ½ feet up through the interior of the figure to withstand potential impact.

Vandalism is not a recent threat; since its first installation in the early thirties, The Tin Man has survived many attempts at its demise, ranging from mild-explosives to direct impacts with motor vehicles from a number of eras. Not only have the efforts been destructive, but some have also been merely embarrassing; along with the many messages in graffiti, the tin man was pelted on a number of occasions with various types of pies. Some urban legends have cropped up along the way also, including the story that upon passing the figure on their way to a concert date in Syracuse the ironically labeled Heavy Metal band Black Sabbath conjured up the song “Iron Man”.

From the old to the young, there are myriad stories of the giant and sometimes scary metal man that are secure in the collective memories of the area of Syracuse.

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