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Interpreting the Evidence

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

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Colonial America

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load "America" Sculpture, Custom House, New York City, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

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.
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.
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.