Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2 - Statue of Freedom, U.S. Capitol Dome

150 years ago: On December 2, 1863, the final section of the bronze Statue of Freedom was placed on top of the nearly completed cast-iron dome of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The ceremony received a 35-gun salute, which was answered at the 12 forts surrounding the city during the Civil War. The colossal bronze is a female allegorical figure that wears a military helmet decorated with stars, topped with an eagle's head and a crest of feathers. Her right hand rests on the hilt of a sheathed sword; her left hand holds a victory laurel wreath and the Shield of the United States. Commissioned in 1854 from sculptor Thomas Crawford, the statue originally included a liberty cap, an ancient Roman symbol of an emancipated slave. But Mississippi Senator and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (later President of the Confederacy), a militant slaveholder who supervised the Capitol’s construction, vehemently objected. And yet, a slave, Philip Reid, helped supervise the bronze casting and assembly process, and the statue’s five sections were hoisted into place by former slaves.

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