Goddess of Liberty Figure

Goddess of Liberty Figure

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Before Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty were created, Columbia was an idealized feminine figure that personified the new nation of America. The concept was created in 1697 when Chief Justice Samuel Sewall of the Massachusetts Bay Colony wrote a poem that suggested that the American colonies be called Columbina, a feminized version of Christopher Columbus’ last name. Over 70 years later, the name evolved when former slave, Phillis Wheatley, wrote an ode to George Washington invoking Columbia in 1775. Over time, the image of Columbia became a symbol for American ideals during wars such as the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and World War I, as well as the subject of political cartoons and literary works. With her liberty cap and patriotic shield, Columbia stood as the spirit of the country, and her impact can still be seen in the naming of companies such as Columbia Bicycles, Columbia Records, and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
Object Name
date made
ca 1850 - 1880
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 79 in x 24 in; 200.66 cm x 60.96 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
The Eleanor and Mabel Van Alstyne American Folk Art Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Folk Art
Cultures & Communities
Many Voices, One Nation
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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This figure was originally featured atop the pilot house of the famous Hudson River steamboat Mary Powell, and was in use from 1863 until the 1890s.

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