Atop one of the most visible and visited buildings in the world, stands the Statue of Freedom whose story goes untold…until NOW! Raised up on a windy Civil War day, her origins are in the very name “America” and she wears Liberty’s Revolutionary symbols to celebrate her new nation. Katya Miller’s upcoming book, Beloved Freedom: Secret on the Capitol Dome reveals a Lady revitalized and ready to be seen in the 21st Century.
Chapter 1. The Woman Named America -16 -20th Centuries
Prominent, yet unseen, the statue of Freedom stands on the US Capitol welcoming visitors arriving by air, land, and sea. Her image has roots in America, the indigenous female based on New World maps and atlases. As America, she became the representative of the United States through the 19-20th century on prints, ceramics, and broadsides. She was incorporated into U. S. Capitol art in sculptures and frescos, and on the Capitol Dome as The Statue of Freedom.
II. Liberty’s Revolutionary Stars, Stripes and Feathers - 18th Century
The second chapter focuses on Revolutionary Art that uses images of America as she merged with Liberty. Iroquois Chiefs met with Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers inspiring them to unite the colonies, similar to their Six Nations. The blending of European and American Culture and Iconography became the basis of symbols for United States of America. Pocahontas became a popular image of “America” which idolized native women without understanding their contribution and sacrifice.
III. Romanticizing Indians, Moving Westward - 1820-1860
Commissioners Montgomery Meigs (northerner) and Jefferson Davis (southerner) were both graduates of West Point in the 1820s, and they differed in their ideas about the statue’s design. Davis’s line drawing of Minerva inspired him to suggest a “Warrior” for the Capitols pinnacle symbol. Paintings of Plains Indians date from this period, who wore President’s Friendship Medallions, fur-fringed robes and plumes of feathers, influencing the Statue of Freedom’s symbols.
IV. The Design of Freedom: Liberty & America, 1855-1856
Chapter Four shows three designs influenced by the letters written back and forth across the Atlantic by sculptor Thomas Crawford, and the US Capitol commissioners. She changed from Freedom Triumphant in Peace and War, to Armed Liberty, and Thomas Crawford’s final design Statue of Freedom with her prominent eagle headdress honoring the original Americans.
V. A Sculptor, A Senator and Three Graces- 1814-1857
The fifth chapter shares the triumphs and tragic death of Sculptor Thomas Crawford. Some of his immediate family and friends were abolitionists, including Charles Sumner, who helped him win commissions, and whose infamous beating on the Senate floor helped ignite the Civil War. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Mothers’ Proclamation of Peace, became Crawford’s sister-in-law after his marriage to Louisa Ward in 1844.
VI. Shipping, Casting and the Greatest Event in National History -1857-1861
The sixth chapter describes the difficulty getting the plaster model shipped in six crates to the United States from Rome, Italy in 1857. Phillip Reid, the slave working for Clark Mills Foundry, cast the statue in 1859 and was emancipated before the Statue was raised. Lincoln called her a symbol of unification for a divided nation. The “Greatest Event in National History” December 2, 1863, lifting Freedom atop the dome called forth innovation, celebration and secrecy.
VII. Renewing Freedom – Protectress of Capitol - 20th and 21st Centuries
The woman named America continued to appear in statues and stamps into the 20th Century. In 1989, a Native Kahuna Morrnah Simeona successfully lobbied her congressman to have Crawford's original and forgotten plaster statue model restored, efforts supported by her Foundation. She also appealed to the Hawaiian legislature to recognize the Lady of Freedom as the “consciousness of the nation.” The bronze statue (atop the dome) was taken down, washed and conserved by the Architect of the Capitol in 1993 after 130 years of weathering. The Capitol Visitors’ Center, built in 2008, displays the restored, plaster model as the centerpiece of its Emancipation Hall. She may be more relevant in the 21st Century than ever.