America’s first symbol, Miss Liberty, is all but forgotten
Patriotic symbols like the Statue of Liberty, the American flag, the bald eagle and Uncle Sam are
easily recognized today, but our first symbol, Miss Liberty, is almost forgotten. Before the Revolutionary War, the word “liberty” was the battle cry.
Perhaps because a female figure was used to represent liberty in ancient Greece and an Indian Princess for the colonies, the early representation for America’s symbol was a woman. The figure was known as Columbia, Goddess of Liberty, Liberty or Miss Liberty. She usually held a sword, wreath, shield decorated with stars and stripes, and wore the Phrygian liberty cap.
By 1875, cast zinc figures of Lady Liberty were being made in New York by the William Demuth Co. Demuth was an artist who made many statues for use as lawn, buildings, parks and ships’ decorations. He later made figures for cigar stores and beer parlors that were a little less than 4 feet and sometimes as tall as 6½ feet.
Once the Statue of Liberty was in place in 1886, the Goddess of Liberty was almost entirely forgotten. She appeared again in posters and folk art during World War I. A large zinc Goddess of Liberty was auctioned at Garth’s in Delaware, Ohio, for $25,200.
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