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Perhaps no sculptor had more influence on the design of the U.S. Capitol Building than Thomas Crawford (1814-1857). His works of art are featured prominently throughout the Capitol, including the iconic Statue of Freedom which tops the Capitol Dome.
Crawford is believed to have been born in New York City. He studied drawing and was an apprentice wood carver before joining the New York stonecutting firm of John Frazee and Robert Launitz. Crawford traveled to Rome in 1835 to study with Bertel Thorwaldsen, a preeminent Danish neoclassic sculptor.
In July 1853, Captain Montgomery Meigs, engineer of the Capitol, asked Massachusetts Senator Edward Everett to recommend artists to design sculpture for the pediments on the East Front of the Capitol. Everett recommended Thomas Crawford as an artist whose statuary would honor both the Capitol and the country.
Crawford designed the Progress of Civilization pediment located, on the East Front of the Senate wing of the Capitol, and the Justice and History sculpture, which is above the Senate doors of the east portico. He also designed the House and Senate bronze doors on the east portico. Crawford also created the Statue of Freedom that tops the Capitol Dome.
Crawford died suddenly in 1857 after the creation of the full-size model for the Statue of Freedom in Rome. After his death, his widow shipped the model to the United States where it was cast by the foundry Clark Mills and placed atop the Capitol Dome on December 2, 1863.