Goddess of Liberty

Standing on the dome of the beautiful Texas Capitol Building in Austin is a statue known as the Goddess of Liberty.  Installed in 1888, she carries a sword in her right hand and her upright left hand holds a star.  The figure which stands 15 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and weighs one and one half tons was designed by the architect of the Capitol, Elijah E. Myers.  Texans were proud to boast that the statue made the Texas Capitol Building several feet taller than the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC.


(Image credit: Bullock Texas State History Museum)

Several men claimed to know the name of the model for the statue, but if there actually ever was such a person, her identity is lost to history.  When viewed close up, her features have been described as somewhat bizarre.  However, her features needed to be exaggerated so that they might at least be seen when viewed from the ground.  Architect Elijah E. Myers was a native of Pennsylvania.  He submitted a design for the current Capitol building under a pseudonym, rather than his own name.  His design was selected and he was paid $12,000 for it.  However, Myers was said to be eccentric and hard to work with, so his employment was terminated and a Chicago builder by the name of Gustav Wilke completed the construction.  The Texas Capitol Building is considered to be Myers’ architectural masterpiece.  He went on to have a successful career but is reported to have developed dementia and died “intestate and obscure at age 78” in 1909.  Builder Gustav Wilke became one of the first builders of skyscrapers and died in 1919.

The 1888 Goddess of Liberty statue stood atop the Capitol for almost 100 years until it was taken down for repair and restoration in 1986.  The original statue was constructed out of eighty pieces of galvanized iron and zinc, welded together in place atop the Capitol.  She was completed in February, 1888.

Beginning its article with “There is a Goddess of Liberty in Texas that has more sweetness to the square inch than any woman in the world,” the Palestine Daily Herald of October 18, 1910 reported that the sculpture was suffering from a bee infestation.  The Goddess was observed through a telescope by Arthur Stiles, then the state levee and drainage commissioner, as having thousands of bees coming in and out through her hand along with several wasps who were disturbing the hive as they tried to steal the honey.  The hive was eventually removed.

Another report stated that after a storm, the Goddess was left hanging by one rusty bolt.  The reports of the on-the-spot repair differ.  Some reports state that a group of volunteers led by University of Texas students did the repair.  Another gave credit to a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats who scaled the dome and repaired her.  Somehow, the former explanation seems more likely.

In the 98 years that followed her installation, she had suffered the effects of weather, pollution, lightening strikes, wind and temperature changes.  The original plan was to repair the statue where it stood, but upon further inspection it was found to be too fragile and badly deteriorated to repair even if it were to be removed, repaired and reinstalled.

When the original statue was removed in 1986, a possible resting place inside the Capitol was first considered, but her final destination became the Bullock Texas State History Museum.  A new scuplture was constructed, cast from molds made from the old Goddess.  This time the material used was aluminum in hopes that she would stand for another 100 years.  After being in place for nearly thirty years, a touch up was funded earlier this year.

The original statue may now be viewed in a climate controlled room on the southwest corner of the second floor of the Bullock Museum, where it has been displayed since 2001.

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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in history, texas, texas women


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The Flying Stinsons

Eddie Stinson had begun his career in aviation in San Antonio, Texas and was the brother of pioneer aviatrix, Katherine Stinson.  Katherine was a prodigy in the new world of aviation.  The youngest of four children, she had been captivated by the lure of airplanes, so much so that she sold her piano to raise the money for flying lessons.  The year was 1912, only a few short years after the Wright Brothers made their first powered flight in 1903.  Her first solo flight was in a similar-looking aircraft to the Kitty Hawk plane, which more nearly resembled a box kite than what we know as an aircraft.  She said that at the time, it was supposed to take 250 minutes of flying lessons to learn how to fly.  Katherine quickly took to it and indeed soloed after four hours of flying lessons.  Licensing requirements were not as strict back then.  Katherine said that all she had to do was climb to 800 feet, do some figure-eights, glide with the power off and make a smooth landing.  She was the fourth woman ever to obtain a pilot’s license.

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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in biography, history, texas, texas women


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Petrolia, a Texas Boom Town

Petrolia is one of several Texas towns that sprang up during the Texas oil boom.  Petrolia took its name from an oil town in Pennsylvania.  It is located due east of Wichita Falls in Clay County, and succeeded a nearby settlement that was named Oil City.


(Image credit: UNT Portal to Texas History)

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Posted by on November 2, 2017 in history, oil and gas, texas, town names


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Fort Belknap

Fort Belknap was founded in the summer of 1851 by Brig. Gen William Belknap, then commander of the Department of Texas, to provide support for the settlers against the Comanche and Kiowa tribes.  It also served to protect traditionally friendly tribes like the Tonkowa against attacks from settlers and other area tribes.  Belknap was also a waypoint on the Butterfield Overland Stage line that carried the United States Mail for a few years.  It was the northern outpost in a string of forts established from the Rio Grande to the south to the Red River to the north.  Located in Young County, it served the area for about 8 years.

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Posted by on October 26, 2017 in forts, history, texas


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Mirabeau B. Lamar

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was the second president of the Republic of Texas. He was born in Georgia in 1798 to John Samuel III and Rebecca Lamar.  One of the youngest of eight children, Lamar was self educated, having been accepted to Princeton University, though he declined.

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Kate Ross Padgitt and Steamboats on the Brazos

Kate Ross Padgett was born January 6, 1851 and was the first white child born in Waco.  Her parents were Shapley Prince and Catherine Fulkerson Ross and they lived in a log cabin built near the Brazos River.  Her older brother was Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross who was a young child when the family moved to Texas.  The exact location of the home is thought to be on the west side of the Brazos near downtown Waco, near the intersection of what was then Bridge Street and First Street, roughly where the Waco Suspension Bridge meets the river today.  There was a natural spring nearby.  The cabin was later replaced by a hotel, the first hotel in Waco, when the Ross family moved to a home near 12th and Dutton streets.

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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in biography, history, texas, texas women


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Bill Pickett

Bill Pickett was born to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Gilbert Pickett in Jenks-Branch, Williamson County, Texas in 1870, one of 13 children.  His heritage was African-American and Cherokee.  He is credited for having invented the method of steer wrestling commonly called “bulldogging.”  For this, his showmanship and his other skills he became the first person of African-American descent to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, among his other honors.

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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in biography, black history, history, rodeo, texas


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