A Glossary of Props Often Accompanying Lady Liberty

Bald Eagle
The official, white-headed bird of the United States, native to North America.
During the late 1700s, images of lady liberty feeding a hovering eagle became very popular, symbolizing the relationship between winged freedom and the support of the United States.
Broken Chains
Broken chains are sometimes seen in the hands of lady liberty, symbolizing a break from tyranny or enslavement.
Broken Jug or Vase
Often shown lying at the feet of lady liberty, the broken jug symbolizes one's break with tyranny. Both the chains and the jug are Old World symbols of oppression.
A symbol of plentitude, strong harvests and abundance.
Depiction of George Washington
Even during Washington's lifetime, the country's first president was deified as a perfect icon of the United States' democratic ideals.
For a closer look at uses of the image of Washington, see Laura Dove and Lisa Guernsey, George Washington: The Making of An Icon
Laurel Wreath
Often identified with victory, a laurel wreath is worn on the head of a victor or award winner.
Liberty Pole and Cap
The liberty cap is a soft, felt cap, sometimes hung on a pole and accompanying its (usually female) owner, sometimes capping the owner's head. The meaning behind the cap derives from its use before the Roman Empire, when similar felt caps were worn by liberated slaves of Troy and Asia Minor to cover their shorn heads; the cap therefore once "symbolized emancipation from personal servitude rather than constitutional political liberty" (Fryd, 109). The caps are sometimes referred to by their Latin name, pilleus liberatis, and they became a significant accessory for the French in depictions of the French Revolution.
As for the pole, "the cap was joined to the pole as a symbol of freedom when Salturnius conquered Rome in 263 B.C. where, in a burst of inspiration, he raised the cap on a pikestaff to show that the slaves who joined his fight would be freed" (Fox, 4.)
Liberty Tree
A symbol of the young American government, the native pine tree signified "the tree of life, ever green, ever bearing" (Fox, 4).
Olive Branch
A universal symbol for the offering of peace.
A native American snake, the rattlesnake exemplified both "constant vigilance" (with no eyelids, its eyes are perpetually open) as well as American rebellion (the rattlesnake attacks only when provoked) (Fox, 4).
Shield of the United States
An age-old image of defense, military strength and nationalism.
Stone Tablet
The stone tablet alludes most directly to the Mosaic tradition as a reference to the figures of the Synagogue who display the Old Law on a tablet, as well as a less direct allusion to Moses leading his people to the Promised land (Trachtenberg, 79).

Return to Origins: The Female Form as Allegory

Return to Politics: The Agendas Behind the Monuments

Return to Journeys: Tracing the )Paths of Our Lady Liberties

Return to Ironies: Race, Gender and the Deception of "Freedom"