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"America" Sculpture, Custom House, New York City, c. 1900

New York City. Custom House. Heroic Group, America. (D. C. French)
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_D47_NG544
 
Document Description
One of four large sculptures at the entrance of the Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House, seated female figures representing America, Asia, Europe, and Africa by Daniel Chester French (1850-1931). America is pictured, c. 1900.
 
Questions
Where is this statue located?
What other symbol of the United States holds a torch?
Why is a torch used to represent America?
Why would a wheel symbolize progress?
This photograph was one of many that were made into slides by the New York State Education Department and shown to students in schools. Why do you think educators wanted New York students to see this photograph? What does it tell you about education in New York one hundred years ago?
 
Historical Challenges
Why aren’t all the continents represented in this building?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Photographs like this one were made into slides and shown to students using a "magic lantern" projector. When was the magic lantern invented? How did it work? What technologies have replaced the magic lantern projector?
 
Art: Study the work of sculptor Daniel Chester French. What is his most famous sculpture? Create your own artwork to represent America.
 
Resources
Berman, Eleanor. New York (Eyewitness Travel Guides). New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. ISBN: 078948756X
 

Historical Context
This is the statue representing America at the entrance to the Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House.  The female figure is holding a torch, a symbol of liberty.  Under her left arm is a man representing "Labor," who is rolling the wheel of progress.  It is one of four large sculptures by Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) at the Custom House entrance.  The other three represent Asia, Europe, and Africa.
 
Essential Question
How do symbols and monuments influence a culture and society?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the object in the photograph and explain how the design was influenced by culture.