America's forefathers built the country with the dream of creating a free nation for its citizens. Unlike any other nation in the world, these unprecedented freedoms are marked by symbols held dear to its citizens. Discover 15 American symbols of freedom and the meanings behind them.
The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument, built in 1848-1884, is an obelisk standing 555 ft (169 m) tall and honors President George Washington. Washington was the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States. President Washington was a symbol of American bravery, being called "the greatest character of the age" by King George III. Washington is also recognized as one of the nation's founding fathers. The monument's creation was considered a groundbreaking achievement of its day; created out of granite, marble, and bluestone gneiss, the Washington Monument is the world's tallest structure predominantly made from stone.
The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, inside the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park. Originally named the Old State House Bell or the State House bell, it was commissioned in 1751 with the words "Proclaim Liberty Throughout all the Land Unto all the Inhabitants Thereof." The bell's iconic crack occurred when it was wrong after arriving in Philadelphia and was repaired twice by local craftsmen. Lawmakers initially used it to summon each other to their legislative sessions and alert the public to meetings and proclamations. The Liberty Bell helped mark America's Independence by signaling the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. Soon after, the bell was decommissioned until the 1830s, when abolitionist societies began using it as a symbol of freedom and gave it the name we know it by today, Liberty Bell.
The rose earned its place as America's national flower in 1986 due to its symbolic nature of the love of country. The rose promotes a sense of belonging to the country and is held dear by Americans as a sign of beauty and resiliency that defines America. The rose was chosen as the national flower after much debate, thanks, in part, to fossil remains showing it has grown in the country for ages. The White House is home to a large rose garden, and even President Washington was known to breed many varieties on his land.
The United States Constitution
The United States Constitution is the document that serves as supreme law over the country. Written in 1787 at the Philadelphia Convention, the United States Constitution became law in 1789. It outlines the government's structure and contains amendments known as the Bill of Rights, which protects the freedoms and rights of American citizens. The U.S. Constitution is comprised of a Preamble containing seven parts, Amendments to the Constitution, containing twenty-seven parts, and unratified Amendments containing five parts.
The American Flag
The American Flag, also known as Old Glory, has thirteen red horizontal stripes alternating with white stripes. It contains a blue rectangle on the upper left-hand side with fifty stars, one for each state located within the country. The original version of the U.S. flag, known as the Grand Union, was adopted on December 3, 1775, and was replaced by a thirteen-star version on June 14, 1777. Robert G. Heft designed the version now in use, and it was adopted in 1960. It is common to see the stars and stripes of the American flag flown throughout the nation, on schools, shops, houses, and alongside highways.
Mount Rushmore is a giant sculpture carved into the side of a granite mountain and contains the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Each of these presidents played a vital role in ensuring America's freedom from outside nations or civil infighting. The sculpture was designed by Gutzon Borglum, who oversaw its execution which took place from 1927 to 1941. Each head is sixty feet tall and stands 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level.
The Star-Spangled Banner
The Star-Spangled Banner is America's national anthem and is derived from a poem written by Francis Scott Key on September 14, 1814, called "Defense of Fort M'Henry." Key wrote the poem while being held captive aboard a British ship, watching as the Battle of Baltimore raged on. Through the dust and smoke, he spotted the American Flag, which continued to fly, eventually signaling the American's victory. Set to the tune of the British song, "To Anacreontic Society," it is sung before sporting events as a sign of respect.
The Bill Of Rights
The Bill of Rights is a part of the United States Constitution and details the inherent rights of every American citizen. The U.S. government adopted the Bill of Rights in 1789 and ratified in 1791, it was designed to protect these rights from infringement from both private citizens and public officials. The Bill of Rights cannot be repealed or amended without a supermajority or referendum vote.
Uncle Sam is a personification used to symbolize the American government and the United States in general. The character is used to signify patriotism and American culture and is commonly used for military recruiting. Although Uncle Sam's origination is unclear, it's believed the character gained popularity in the War of 1812 and was designed after a man named Samuel Wilson.
The White House
The White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is the official workplace and residence of the president of the United States. The White House has been the residing building for every president since John Adams in 1800 and is often used to describe the president and his advising staff. Designed by James Hoban, an Irish-born architect, construction took place between 1792 and 1800, using Aquia Creek Sandstone which was then painted white. In 1814, the British army burned down the residence as they attacked the city in a move later referred to as "the burning of Washington." The fire completely destroyed the interior and severely damaged the exterior, causing a massive reconstruction effort that would take years to complete. Currently, the White House complex includes an Executive Residence where the president resides, the West Wing where official government business takes place, the East Wing, The Eisenhower Executive Office building, and the Blair House, which is a guest residence.
The Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is America's national bird and is a symbol of freedom and power. Originally used to replace the smaller white eagle on the Great Seal of The United States on June 20, 1782, it quickly gained popularity and is used on American currency, public buildings, official documents, flags, and many other governmental items. Although the American bald eagle is viewed as a national treasure, it has faced extinction multiple times in the past. Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940, making it illegal to kill, sell, or own the birds. Their numbers also dwindled in the 1960s as they began dying after eating prey contaminated with a pesticide called DDT, commonly used in World War II. The combination of federal protection and DDT regulation allowed the wild population to recover and begin thriving again.
The Pledge Of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath used to signify citizens' allegiance to the United States Flag and its republic. Composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and adopted into congress in 1942, it received its official name in 1945 when "under God" was added. The pledge is used to open congressional sessions, governmental meetings, school days, US naturalization ceremonies, and more. There are four versions, with the current one in use since 1954; the Pledge of Allegiance is viewed as an act of patriotism and national pride.
The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is a monument built to honor Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America. Located on the west end of the National Mall in Washington DC, President Lincoln sits on a chair with inscriptions from two of his best-known speeches, his second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address. Dedicated in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial has since been a symbol of racial freedom and bravery.
The Great Seal
The Great Seal is America's national symbol and refers to the physical seal which is located in the office of the United States Secretary of State and the design itself. One side of the Seal depicts the national arms, while the other shows an unfinished pyramid with an eye in a triangle surrounded by glory proper. The Great Seal was first used in 1782 to authenticate federal government documents and was added to the one-dollar bill in 1935.
The Statue Of Liberty
Perhaps one of the most commonly recognized symbols of America, the Statue of Liberty is a copper statue gifted to the US by France in 1886. It features the figure Libertas, a Roman liberty goddess with a torch in her right hand raised above her head and a tabula ansata inscribes with July IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776) in her left hand. A broken shackle and chain are lying at her feet, commemorating freedom from slavery. The Statue of Liberty is on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor and was seen as a welcome to immigrants seeking the freedoms and prosperity America offered.
These symbols are critical to American history. They signify America's freedom and are reminders of the many sacrifices it took to ensure it remains the land of the free and the home of the brave.