At noon on December 2, 1863, a solemn ceremony marked the placement of the final piece of the Statue of Freedom atop the dome of the United States Capitol. The “flag of the nation was hoisted to the apex of the dome,” wrote an observer, “a signal that the ‘crowning’ had been successfully completed.” While the Civil War raged on, a salute was ordered to commemorate the event, “as an expression…of respect for the material symbol of the principle upon which our government is based.” The twelve forts that guarded the capital city answered with cannon fire when artillery fired a 35-gun-salute—one gun for each state, including those of the Confederacy. “Freedom now stands on the Dome of the Capitol of the United States,” wrote the Commissioner of Public Buildings, Benjamin Brown French, in his journal, “may she stand there forever, not only in form, but in spirit.”
Except for a brief restoration period in 1993, Freedom has remained on her perch for 150 years. The original plaster model, long neglected and shuffled from place to place, found a permanent home in 2008.