American sculptor Thomas Crawford was already working on other sculptures for the Capitol in his studio in Rome when he was chosen to design the figure to top the new Capitol dome. In his first version, Freedom wore a wreath of wheat and laurel. After he saw the drawing of the dome, Crawford created a second design with a liberty cap, the emblem of freed slaves in ancient Rome and a symbol of liberty during the American and French revolutions. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis objected to this symbol as "inappropriate to a people who were born free" and suggested a helmet. The approved third design includes a helmet topped with an eagle head and feathers, in homage to the American Indian.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress and Architect of the Capitol
Statue of Freedom
The full-size plaster model for the Statue of Freedom was used to cast the bronze statue on top of the Capitol dome. Freedom wears a helmet encircled with stars and topped with an eagle’s head and feathers, the talons hanging at either side of her face. Her long, curly hair flows down her back. Her dress is secured with a brooch with the letters “US,” and she is draped with a fur-trimmed robe. Her right hand holds a sheathed sword, the left a laurel wreath of victory and the striped shield of the United States.
The model, which had been stored in pieces for many years, was restored in 1992 by the Architect of the Capitol with funds donated to the U.S. Capitol Preservation Commission. It was on display in the Russell Senate Office Building before being moved to Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The bronze Statue of Freedom, facing east over the central entrance, crowns the dome of the United States Capitol.