Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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October 23rd
The Statue of Freedom
She’s not as famous as the Statue of Liberty, but she’s the crowning glory of a revered American symbol: the dome of the U.S. Capitol. 19½-foot bronze Statue of Freedom by Thomas Crawford depicts a woman in flowing draperies clasping a sheathed sword in her right hand. With her left hand she holds a thirteen-striped shield of the United States, along with a laurel wreath of victory. Her Roman helmet features an eagle’s head, feathers, and talons, said to be a reference to Native American culture. (The original design included the Phrygian cap worn by freed Roman slaves as a sign of liberty, but Secretary of War Jefferson Davis objected that it might incite Southern slaves to rebel.)

The dome on which she stands appears to be stone but is really cast iron painted to look like white marble. Construction on the dome began in 1856 and continued for a decade, even during the Civil War. “If people see the Capitol going on,” Abraham Lincoln said, “it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.” By 1863, the dome was far enough along to hoist the 15,000-pound statue in sections onto its perch, nearly 300 hundred feet high.

In 1993 the statue was temporarily removed for restoration. Preservation experts spent several months repairing cracks and corrosion. On October 23, 1993, with the aid of a helicopter, the Statue of Freedom soared to the top of the dome again, where she has remained since.

American History Parade
1824
Seventy-six-year-old John Stevens of Hoboken, New Jersey, completes the first U.S. steam locomotive to pull a train on a track.

1864
Union forces prevail in the Battle of Westport, near Kansas City, Missouri, one of the largest Civil War engagements west of the Mississippi.

1944
The three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of WWII, begins in the Philippines; it ends in Allied victory.

1983
A suicide truck-bombing at the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, believed to be the work of the terrorist group Hezbollah, kills 241 American servicemen.

1993
The Statue of Freedom returns to the top of the U.S. Capitol dome.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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