Columbia (; ) is the female national personification
of the United States
. It was also a historical name applied to the Americas
and to the New World
. The association has given rise to the names of many American places, objects, institutions and companies; such as: Columbia University
, the District of Columbia
(U.S. capital), "Hail, Columbia
" (unofficial national and official vice-presidential anthem) as well as the ship ''Columbia Rediviva
'', which would give its name to the Columbia River
. Images of the Statue of Liberty
(''Liberty Enlightening the World'', erected in 1886) largely displaced personified
Columbia as the female symbol of the United States by around 1920, although Lady Liberty was seen as an aspect of Columbia.
''Columbia'' is a New Latin toponym
, in use since the 1730s with reference to the Thirteen Colonies
which would go on to form the United States
. It originated from the name of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus
and from the Latin
'', common in the Latin names of countries (paralleling Britannia
, and others).
The earliest type of personification of the Americas
, seen in European art from the 16th century onwards, reflected the tropical regions in South and Central America from which the earliest travellers reported back. These were most often used in sets of female personification
s of the Four Continents
. America was depicted as a woman who, like Africa, was only partly dressed, typically in bright feathers, which invariably formed her headress. She often held a parrot, was seated on a caiman
or alligator, with a cornucopia
. Sometimes a severed head was a further attribute, or in prints scenes of cannibalism were seen in the background.
Though versions of this depiction, tending as time went on to soften the rather savage image into an "Indian princess" type, and in churches emphasizing conversion to Christianity, served European artists well enough, by the 18th century they were becoming rejected by settlers in North America, who wanted figures representing themselves rather than the Native Americans
they were often in conflict with.
Massachusetts Chief Justice Samuel Sewall
used the name Columbina (not Columbia) for the New World in 1697. The name Columbia for America first appeared in 1738 in the weekly publication of the debates of Parliament in Edward Cave
's ''The Gentleman's Magazine
''. Publication of Parliamentary debates was technically illegal, so the debates were issued under the thin disguise of ''Reports of the Debates of the Senate of Lilliput'' and fictitious names were used for most individuals and placenames found in the record. Most of these were transparent anagrams or similar distortions of the real names and some few were taken directly from Jonathan Swift
's ''Gulliver's Travels
'' while a few others were classical or neoclassical in style. Such were Ierne for Ireland, Iberia for Spain, Noveborac for New York (from Eboracum
, the Roman name for York
) and Columbia for America—at the time used in the sense of "European colonies in the New World".
's 1872 painting, ''American Progress
'', depicts Columbia as the Spirit of the Frontier, carrying telegraph lines across the Western frontier to fulfill [[manifest destiny ]]
By the time of the [[American Revolution|Revolution]], the name Columbia had lost the comic overtone of its Lilliputian origins and had become established as an alternative, or poetic name for America. While the name America is necessarily scanned with four syllables, according to 18th-century rules of English versification Columbia was normally scanned with three, which is often more metrically convenient. For instance, the name appears in a collection of complimentary poems written by Harvard graduates in 1761 on the occasion of the marriage and coronation of King George III.
:Behold, Britannia! in thy favour'd Isle;
:At distance, thou, Columbia! view thy Prince,
:For ancestors renowned, for virtues more;
The name Columbia rapidly came to be applied to a variety of items reflecting American identity. A ship built in Massachusetts in 1773 received the name ''Columbia Rediviva
'' and it later became famous as an exploring ship and lent its name to new Columbias.
No serious consideration was given to using the name Columbia as an official name for the independent United States, but with independence, the name became popular and was given to many counties
, and towns as well as other institutions.
* In 1784, the former King's College in New York City had its name changed to Columbia College
, which became the nucleus of the present-day Ivy League Columbia University
* In 1786, South Carolina
gave the name Columbia to its new capital city
. Columbia is also the name of at least 19 other towns in the United States.
* In 1791, three commissioners appointed by President George Washington
named the area destined for the seat of the United States government the Territory of Columbia. In 1801, it was organized as the District of Columbia
* In 1792, the ''Columbia Rediviva
'' sailing ship gave its name to the Columbia River
in the American Northwest (much later, the ''Rediviva'' would give its name to the Space Shuttle ''Columbia''
* In 1798, Joseph Hopkinson
wrote lyrics for Philip Phile
's 1789 inaugural "President's March" under the new title of "Hail, Columbia
". Once used as ''de facto'' national anthem of the United States, it is now used as the entrance march of the Vice President of the United States
* In 1821, citizens of Boone County, Missouri
, chose the name for their new city, Columbia, Missouri
* In 1865 Jules Verne
's novel ''From the Earth to the Moon
'', the spacecraft to the Moon was fired from a giant Columbiad
In part, the more frequent usage of the name "Columbia" reflected a rising American neoclassicism
, exemplified in the tendency to use Roman terms and symbols. The selection of the eagle
as the national bird
, the heraldric use of the eagle
, the use of the term Senate
to describe the upper house
and the naming of Capitol Hill
and the Capitol building
were all conscious evocations of Roman precedents.
The adjective Columbian has been used to mean "of or from the United States of America" such as in the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
held in Chicago, Illinois
. It has occasionally been proposed as an alternative word for American
Columbian should not be confused with the adjective pre-Columbian
, which refers to a time period before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.
As a quasi-mythical figure, Columbia first appears in the poetry of the African-American Phillis Wheatley
in 1776, during the Revolutionary War:
Especially in the 19th century, Columbia was visualized as a goddess-like
female national personification
of the United States and of liberty itself, comparable to the British Britannia
, the Italian Italia Turrita
and the French Marianne
, often seen in political cartoon
s of the 19th and early 20th century. The personification was sometimes called Lady Columbia or Miss Columbia. Such an iconography usually personified America in the form of an Indian queen or Native American princess.
The image of the personified Columbia was never fixed, but she was most often presented as a woman between youth and middle age, wearing classically-draped garments decorated with stars and stripes. A popular version gave her a red-and-white-striped dress and a blue blouse, shawl, or sash, spangled with white stars. Her headdress varied and sometimes it included feathers reminiscent of a Native American headdress while other times it was a laurel wreath
, but most often, it was a cap of liberty
Early in World War I
(1914–1918), the image of Columbia standing over a kneeling "Doughboy" was issued in lieu of the Purple Heart
medal. She gave "to her son the accolade of the new chivalry of humanity" for injuries sustained in "the" World War.
In World War I, the name Liberty Bond
for savings bonds was heavily publicized, often with images from the Statue of Liberty
(''Liberty Enlightening the World''). The personification of Columbia fell out of use and was largely replaced by the Statue of Liberty as a feminine symbol of the United States.
The goddess of Liberty was also struck onto the face of half-dollar US coins
known as Walking Liberty
After Columbia Pictures
adopted Columbia as its logo
in 1924, she has since appeared as bearing a torch similar to that of the Statue of Liberty, unlike 19th-century depictions of Columbia.
Statues of the personified Columbia may be found among others in the following places:
* The 1863 Statue of Freedom
atop the United States Capitol
building, though not actually called Columbia, shares many of her iconic characteristics.
* Atop Philadelphia's Memorial Hall
, built 1876
* The replica Statue of the Republic
(Golden Lady) in Chicago's Jackson Park
is often understood to be Columbia. It is one of the remaining icons of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
* In the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
, dedicated 1949.
* In the Monument
of Angola, Indiana
Since 1800, the name "Columbia" has been used for a wide variety of items
* The naming of the New World
and of the newly-independent country of Colombia
after Christopher Columbus in the early 19th century is discussed at Colombia § Etymology
* Columbia, Missouri
* In the 1840s, British Columbia
, which is now a province of Canada, was named by Queen Victoria
. The details of the naming of the Columbia River
and the Columbia provinces around it are discussed at British Columbia § Etymology
* The element niobium
was first called columbium, a name which some people still use today. The name columbium, coined by the chemist Charles Hatchett
upon his discovery of the metal in 1801,
reflected that the type specimen of the ore
came from America.
* Avenues and streets
in various cities and towns throughout the United States named Columbia Avenue or Columbia Street, such as the Columbia Avenue Historic District
in Davenport, Iowa
, and various Columbia Avenues in Pennsylvania cities.
* Columbia County, Wisconsin
* Columbia County, Pennsylvania
* Columbia, Kentucky
in Adair County.
* Columbia, Pennsylvania
in Lancaster County.
* Columbia, Maryland
in Howard County.
* Columbia, Connecticut
in Tolland County.
* Columbia, South Carolina
* Columbia Square, Savannah
* Columbia University
, an Ivy League university in New York City that first adopted the name Columbia College in 1784 to replace King's College
* The song "Hail, Columbia
," an American patriotic song
. It was considered with several other songs one of the unofficial national anthems
of the United States
until 1931, when "The Star-Spangled Banner
" was officially named the national anthem.
* The song "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean
" (1843) commemorates the United States under the name Columbia.
* Columbia Records
, founded in 1888, took its name from its headquarters in the District of Columbia.
* Columbia Pictures
, named in 1924, uses a version of the personified Columbia as its logo after a great deal of experimentation.
's former legal name was the Columbia Broadcasting System, first used in 1928. The name derived from an investor, the Columbia Phonograph Manufacturing Company, which owned Columbia Records.
* The Command Module
of the Apollo 11
spacecraft, the first manned mission to land on the Moon, was named ''Columbia
* The Space Shuttle ''Columbia''
, built in 1975 to 1979, was named for the exploring ship ''Columbia
* A personified Columbia appears in ''Uncle Sam
'', a graphic novel about American history (1997).
* The setting of the 2013 video game ''BioShock Infinite
'' is the fictional city of Columbia, which makes frequent use of Columbia's image. Columbia herself is believed to be an archangel by the citizens.
* Columbia, played by Laura Bell Bundy
, appears in season two of the Starz
series ''American Gods
'', based on the 2001 novel of the same name
by Neil Gaiman
* The Columbia Typographical Union/CWA No. 101
is the oldest existing local union in the United States.
File:Spanking Douglas.jpg|Political cartoon from 1860 depicting Stephen A. Douglas receiving a spanking from Columbia as Uncle Sam looks on approvingly
File:The Chinese Question (February 1871), by Thomas Nast.png|A defiant Columbia in an 1871 Thomas Nast cartoon shown protecting a defenseless Chinese man from an angry Irish lynch mob that has just burned down an orphanage
File:And Not This Man? (August 1865), by Thomas Nast.jpg|Columbia in an 1865 Thomas Nast cartoon asking the government to allow black soldiers to vote
File:Beautiful goddess of liberty, Star Spangled Banner, etc.jpg|Carte de visite (c. 1866) featuring a woman dressed as Columbia and a man dressed as a Revolutionary War general
File:Judge-2-6-1897.jpg|Columbia (representing the American people) reaches out to oppressed Cuba with blindfolded Uncle Sam in background (''Judge'', February 6, 1897; cartoon by Grant E. Hamilton)
File:ColumbiaHerselfSmall.jpg|Columbia from a Columbia Records phonograph cylinder package
File:StatuePacificCemetery.png|Columbia at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
File:WWI early Purple Heart issue.jpg|Lady Columbia recognized World War I Doughboy soldier as having suffered injury due to his willingness to serve humanity
File:Columbia Calls - Enlist Now for U.S. Army - Halsted - Aderente.jpg|Columbia Calls – Enlist Now for U.S. Army, World War I recruitment poster by Vincent Aderente
, a symbol for the German state of Bavaria
, a similar symbol for Britain
* Goddess of Democracy
* Lady Justice
* Our Lady of Guadalupe
, a similar symbol for Mexico, albeit of religious nature
, a similar symbol for France
* Higham, John (1990). "Indian Princess and Roman Goddess: The First Female Symbols of America", ''Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society''. 100: 50–51, JSTOR oPDF
* Le Corbeiller, Clare, "Miss America and Her Sisters: Personifications of the Four Parts of the World", ''The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin'', vol. 19, pp. 210–223PDF
* George R. Stewart
(1967). ''Names on the Land''. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.
"Where Have You Gone, Miss Columbia?"
Category:National symbols of the United States