Statue of Freedom: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Statue of Freedom (1857-62)

The Statue of Freedom (1857-62) — sometimes called Armed Freedom or simply Freedom — is Thomas Crawford's bronze statue that, since 1863, has crowned the dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The original and formal name of the work was Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace. Official United States government publications say that now the statue "is officially known as the Statue of Freedom".[1]



Freedom is a colossal bronze standing figure 19½-feet (6 meters) tall and weighing approximately 15,000 pounds (6,800 kg). Her crest peaks at 288 feet (88 meters) above the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol[2]. She is a female allegorical figure whose right hand holds the hilt of a sheathed sword while a laurel wreath of victory and the Shield of the United States are clasped in her left hand. The heraldic shield is the same as in the Great Seal of the United States, with thirteen stripes, except that the chief has stars (again, thirteen). Her chiton is secured by a brooch inscribed "U.S." and is partially covered by a heavy, Indian-style fringed blanket thrown over her left shoulder. She symbolically faces east towards the main entrance of the building[3] which means that incidentally, the sun never sets on Freedom.[4] She wears a military helmet adorned with stars and an eagle's head which is itself crowned by an umbrella-like crest of feathers. Freedom stands atop a cast-iron globe encircled with one of the national mottoes, E pluribus unum. The lower part of the base is decorated with fasces and wreaths. Ten bronze points tipped with platinum are attached to her headdress, shoulders, and shield for protection from lightning.



Capitol dome lantern Washington.jpg

A monumental statue for the top of the national Capitol appeared in architect Thomas U. Walter's original drawing for the new cast-iron dome, which was authorized in 1855. Walter's drawing showed the outline of a statue representing Liberty; Crawford proposed an allegorical figure of Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace.

Crawford was commissioned to design the Statue of Freedom in 1854 and executed the plaster model for the statue in his studio in Rome. Mississippi Senator and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (who would later become President of the Confederacy) was in charge of the Capitol construction and its decorations. According to David Hackett Fischer in his book Liberty and Freedom, Crawford’s statue was…

…very close to Jefferson Davis’s ideas in every way but one…. Above the crown he [had] added a liberty cap, the old Roman symbol of an emancipated slave. It seemed a direct affront to a militant slaveholder, and Jefferson Davis exploded with rage. The northern sculptor and the southern slaveholder had already clashed over a liberty cap in the interior decoration of the Capitol.[5]

Davis sent his aide, Captain Montgomery Meigs, with orders to remove the cap, saying that “its history renders it inappropriate to a people who were born free and would not be enslaved”.[6] A military helmet, with an American eagle head and crest of feathers, replaced the cap in the sculpture's final version. (Today many observers take the statue, with its eagle and feathers, to be an American Indian.[7])


Crawford died in 1857 before the full size plaster model left his studio. The model, packed into six crates, was shipped from Italy in a small sailing vessel in the spring of 1858. During the voyage the ship began to leak and stopped in Gibraltar for repairs. After leaving Gibraltar, the ship began leaking again to the point that it could go no farther than Bermuda, where the model was stored until other transportation could be arranged. Half of the crates finally arrived in New York City in December, but all sections were not in Washington, D.C. until late March 1859.

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 the statue was finished and temporarily displayed on the Capitol grounds. The cost of the statue, exclusive of installation, was $23,796.82. 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.[8]

While Freedom was being cast at Mills' foundry the foreman in charge of the casting went on strike. Instead of paying him the higher wages he demanded Mills turned the project over to Philip Reid, one of the slaves working at the facility. Reid presided over the rest of the casting and assembly of the figure. The figure was placed in position on December 2, 1863. Reid had to wait until November 1864, at which time he, at least symbolically, received his freedom cap.


The Statue of Freedom was removed from the dome for five months in 1993.

On May 9, 1993, after being in place almost 130 years, the statue was brought down from its pedestal by helicopter for restoration, also giving tourists a chance to see the statue up close. The work was needed because of extensive pitting and corrosion on the surface of the bronze and because of a crack and rusting on the cast-iron pedestal. The project was guided by the recommendations of a thorough conservation and engineering study conducted in 1991. The United States Capitol Preservation Commission provided $780,000 in privately raised funds, which covered all project costs. The work was performed by New Arts Foundry, of Baltimore, Maryland.

The cast-iron pedestal was restored in place atop the dome. The metal was stripped of paint, and the wreaths and fasces were removed to ensure that they were thoroughly cleaned and coated. The crack was permanently repaired, and the entire pedestal was primed and painted with a color specially mixed to match the statue. Since then, every 2-3 years, the statue undergoes two weeks of cleaning and recoating as necessary.

Statue of Freedom's plaster model cast now resides in the Capitol Visitor Center.

Restoration of the statue and the pedestal was completed in approximately four months. The Statue of Freedom was returned to its pedestal by helicopter on October 23, 1993, amid the celebration of the bicentennial of the U.S. Capitol.

The plaster model of the statue, which had been in storage for 25 years, was reassembled and restored in the basement rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, where it was returned to permanent public display in January 1993. The plaster model was relocated to the Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center, which provides more visitors access to look at the statue’s details.[9]

The head of the statue is depicted on a postage stamp (United States Scott No. 573), which was re-issued in 2006.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the The Architect of the Capitol.

  1. ^ United States Architect of the Capitol (1965). Compilation of Works of Art and Other Objects in the United States Capitol. Washington: United States Government Printing Office. pp. 364.  
  2. ^ "Statue of Freedom". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 2009-08-23.  
  3. ^ "Architect of the Capitol Frequently Asked Questions". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 2009-01-21.  
  4. ^ "Freedom's face-lift". Washington Times. 2007-07-15. pp. 1. Retrieved 2009-01-21.  
  5. ^ Fischer, David Hackett (2005), Liberty and Freedom, Oxford University Press, pg 299.
  6. ^ Meigs to Crawford, cited in Fryd, Vivien Green (1992), Art and Empire: The Politics of Ethnicity in the United States Capitol, 1815-1860, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
  7. ^ PBS News Hour on Jan 16
  8. ^ Gale, Robert L. Thomas Crawford: American Sculptor, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1964, p. 190
  9. ^ Architect of the Capitol (2008-06-02). "AOC To Begin Move of Statue of Freedom Model into Capitol Visitor Center". Press release. Retrieved 2008-11-10.  

External links

Coordinates: 38°53′24″N 77°0′32.4″W / 38.89°N 77.009°W / 38.89; -77.009

Simple English

The Statue of Freedom is a statue of a woman that is on top of the United States Capitol. It was made in 1863 by Thomas Crawford. The woman is a symbol - she was not an actual person but stands for the idea of freedom. She is holding a shield and a laurel wreath in one hand. In the other hand, she is holding a sword that is sheathed (in its case).

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address