Scottish Rite - Statue of Freedom Medallion

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This bronze medallion was minted to commemorate the Statue of Freedom which is located on the peak of the Dome to the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  In 1985 the Statue of Freedom was in need of restoration so the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, USA sold this medallion as a fundraiser to help cover the costs of restoration and repairs.  It measures 1 3/4 inches in diameter.

A Brief History

The Statue of Freedom was created as the crowning feature of the new cast-iron dome of the United States Capitol authorized by Congress in 1855.  Freemason Thomas U. Walter, the Architect of the Capitol, first designed the dome with a classical figure of Liberty at the top.

Thomas Crawford, an American sculptor, was working in Rome on another neoclassical sculpture for the Capitol.  Montgomery C. Meigs, the Superintendent of Construction, asked Crawford to design a statue to surmount the Dome.  In discussing a subject for the statue, Meigs wrote to the sculptor:  "We have too many Washingtons, we have America in the pediment.  Victories and Liberties are rather pagan emblems, but a Liberty I fear is the best we can get."  A month later, Crawford had sketched his first design for "Freedom triumphant in War and Peace," a figure wearing a wreath of wheat and laurel and holding an olive branch and the shield of the United States.

After receiving Walter's design for the dome, Crawford prepared a small model of a figure with a liberty cap, the emblem of freed slaves in ancient Greece.  The red cap had been adopted as a symbol of liberty during the American and French Revolutions. 

Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War in charge of construction of the dome, objected to the liberty cap.  In a letter of January 15, 1856 he wrote: "... its history renders it inappropriate to a people who were born free and would not be enslaved."  He suggested that the figure wore a helmet instead, and Crawford then devised an unusual helmet crested with eagle feathers; he also draped the figure in a heavy, fringed robe.  This new design was approved in May 1856. 

Description

The Statue of Freedom is a classical female figure wearing flowing draperies.  Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword; her left holds a laurel wreath of victory and the shield of the United States with thirteen stripes.  Her helmet is encircled by stars and features a crest composed of an eagle's head, feathers, and talons, a reference to the costume of Native Americans.  A brooch inscribed "U.S." secures her fringed robe.  She stands on a cast iron globe encircled with the motto: E Pluribus Unum.  The lower part of the base is decorated with fasces and wreaths.  The bronze statue stands 19 feet 6 inches tall and weights approximately 15,000 pounds.  The crest of her helmet rises 288 feet above the east front plaza.

(Here at Phoenixmasonry, this curator thinks Freedom resembles the ancient Greek God Athena.  Take a look at Freedom below to see the similarities.)

 

         

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