After designating Washington D.C. as the nation’s capital, honoring those that helped to found the country became an important task. Throughout the nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries, both the government and private funders erected and dedicated 14 monuments commemorating key individuals involved in the war effort. Revolutionary War heroes and political figures from both the then-colonies and Europe were cast into statues, and still stand today. A few monuments include American generals George Washington and Nathanael Greene, signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Franklin, and the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who came to the colonies to assist in the Revolution.
Many of the monuments were paid for by the federal government, but others were paid for or donated to the city by various organizations and individuals. However, the government’s commitment to funding and erecting monuments early in its history showed that it took seriously the commemoration of its founders and influential leaders through public art. All but one of the statues were casted in bronze (Benjamin Franklin’s statue was cast in marble) and were designed in the popular artistic styles of the day. The statues were also crafted by some of the best and most sought after artists of the time, hailing from both Europe and the United States alike.
Both in their design and in the history they reflect, the monuments that comprise the American Revolution Statuary represent the early commemoration of leading historical figures within the nation and the government’s willingness to erect public art focused on this idea. They also represent who receives representation in the nation’s capital, and what qualifies a person for a public monument to their legacy.
The American Revolutionary Statuary is currently owned and maintained by the National Park Service. The statues listed in the American Revolution Statuary are all located within public parks owned and maintained by the National Park Service.
DC Inventory: March 3, 1979
National Register: July 14, 1978