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'
- For a closer look at uses of the image of Washington, see Laura Dove and Lisa
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
- 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,
- Liberty Tree
- A symbol of the young American government, the native pine
tree signified "the tree of life, ever green, ever bearing" (Fox,
- 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
- 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
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"