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Statue of Freedom

One has probably seen this figure a thousand times and never really noticed her unless you have had the privilege to visit the U.S. Capitol. She sits atop the dome of the Capitol and has for the last 150 years. She was selected by Jefferson Davis, known foremost as the only President of the Confederacy. He also served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States. One of Davis's responsibilities during this time was to oversee the expansion of the Capitol. A decision had been made to adorn the top with a statue and the architects turned to American sculptor, Thomas Crawford, for designs.

Many people think that the statue is representing an American Indian but a review of the history would tell you that is only a part of the story. Crawford's first design was too small and in the second design the majestic female figure was wearing what was then known as a liberty cap. However, this type of cap was a symbol of freed slaves, and although the Civil War was not in the picture, the conflicts about slavery were already commonplace and as Vivien Green from Vanderbilt University says on her website, "The Statue of Freedom, in fact, participated in the battle between the North and South when Jefferson Davis used his position as the Secretary of War to eliminate any references to slavery in a public building that belonged to both regions." Green goes on to say that "Crawford replaced the objectionable cap with a helmet and eagle feathers, transforming what had clearly been an allegory of Liberty into a confusing monument that combines three traditional personifications: Liberty (signified by the title), Minerva, and America. By adding the eagle feathers to the helmet, Crawford associated America with Liberty, an iconographic tradition that began before the Revolutionary War, where the Indian princess with tobacco leaf skirt and headdress holds the cap and pole. A majestic and robust female figure, Statue of Freedom also evokes Minerva, the Roman goddess of war and of the city, protector of civilized life, and embodiment of wisdom and reason."

Green goes on to say that "Crawford's Statue of Freedom thus combines a multitude of 'Others' that compose the U.S. democracy: the black body, as embodied by the pileus and pole, the 'Indian' body in the form of the eagle feathers and allegory of 'America' as an Indian princess, the 'female' body in the form of the female allegory, and the 'primitive' body, which intersects all three. The statue thus embodies the three principal figures produced by the new nation - the African American, the American Indian, and the white woman." This thought of many people making one nation is also found in the inscription on the base of the statue, E PLURIBUS UNUM, which translates to "Out of Many, One."

The Rest of the Story

Deciding on the design was only the beginning of the story for the statue. After the final drawings were approved by Davis in 1856, Crawford began building the plaster casts in his studio in Rome. Unfortunately, he died unexpectedly before the statue, which had five separate pieces, could be shipped. It took almost two years before the plaster casts reached America. According to the Architect of the Capitol website, "Beginning in 1860, the statue was cast in five main sections by Clark Mills, whose bronze foundry was located on the outskirts of Washington. Work was halted in 1861 because of the Civil War, but by the end of 1862, with the help of the slave Philip Reid, the statue was finished and temporarily displayed on the Capitol grounds. The cost of the statue, exclusive of installation, was $23,796.82. The statue weighs 15,000 pounds and stands almost 20 feet tall. Late in 1863, construction of the dome was sufficiently advanced for the installation of the statue, which was hoisted in sections and assembled atop the cast-iron pedestal. The final section, the figure's head and shoulders, was raised on December 2, 1863, to a salute of 35 guns answered by the guns of the 12 forts around Washington."

National Women's History Month

March is National Women's History Month and the 2014 honorees for Women of Character, Commitment and Character include all the women depicted in the Statue of Freedom. See the listing of all the honorees at NWHP.org.

Shout Out to America

Watch this short video to celebrate a great American veteran and the small way that many people showed him he was appreciated.

Glendale and ParadeStore.com

Glendale outfits honor guards, color guards, and drill units. Visit our site for the best in parade and drill equipment and for uniform accessories at http://www.ParadeStore.com

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