“Hail Columbia!” Personifications of America from the Colonial Era through World War I

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This lecture traces the evolution of personifications of America from the beginning of European exploration through the emergence of the United States as a modern international superpower. Across this timeframe, artists symbolized America in a range of guises, including as a Native American princess, the classicized goddess Columbia, the personification of Liberty, and Uncle Sam. As emblems of America—the place, the nation, the concept—these figures embodied the values associated with the country and its people. Appearing in many different artistic media, images of personified America reflect shifting ideas about what America is, as well as revealing art’s important role in constructing national identity.