"Statue of America" Installed in USNM

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Summary

  • The "Statue of America" also known as the "Goddess of Liberty" or "Liberty" was erected in honor of President James Garfield's inauguration, held at the United States National Museum (now the Arts and Industries Building). The March 4, 1881 celebration was the first event to take place at the USNM. According to the 1881 Smithsonian Annual Report, the statue was described in the following notation: "decorations prepared by the committee consisted of a colossal statue of Liberty, erected in the rotunda." The "Statue of America" was created by artist Casper Buberl, who also created the statue "Columbia Defending Science and Industry" which is located on the exterior of the USNM's north entrance.
  • When the USNM opened for the inauguration, the floors were not complete. To be available for the event, temporary wooden floors were put in place. Shortly after the inauguration, "an appropriation of $26,000 was made by Congress for covering the four halls with marble tiling and the rotunda with encaustic tiling. The introduction of a fountain basin, 20 feet in diameter, in the rotunda, greatly reduced the amount of tiling to be done, and added much to the general effect. It is proposed to have a small fountain jet in this basin, and to have various ornamental plants growing in it, forming a pleasing prospect in looking across the long extent of over 300 feet from one main entrance to another." (page 10, Smithsonian 1881 Annual Report) Consequently, it seems that the "Statue of America" was a temporary structure inside the USNM, and was taken down when the temporary wooded floors were dismantled and replaced by the permanent marble tiles.
  • In 1890, the fountain in the USNM's rotunda was replaced by the "Statute of Freedom," a plaster model of the statue that stands atop the US Capitol Building. This model remains in the USNM rotunda until 1967 when it too is replaced by a fountain.

Subject

  • Buberl, Casper 1834-1899
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • Statue of America (Statue)
  • Statue of Freedom (Statue)

Category

Chronology of Smithsonian History

Notes

  • Smithsonian Institution Annual Report 1881, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office) pgs. 2, 9-10.
  • "A Beautiful Ball-Room: The Goddess of Liberty as a Centerpiece," Washington Post, March 5, 1881, pg. 2.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu

Date

March 1881

Topic

  • Inaugurations
  • Art & Industries Building (A&I)
  • Statues

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