Artist: William Rush (1756–1833)
Medium: Carved wood (probably Eastern white pine), gessoed and gilded, and cast iron, painted
Dimensions: 36 x 68 x 61 in. (91.4 x 172.7 x 154.9 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund, and Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang, Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Goelet, Annette de la Renta, and Vira Hladun-Goldmann Gifts, 2002
Accession Number: 2002.21.1
This monumental eagle, of fluid and energetic form, was commissioned in 1809 by Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Philadelphia for its new building. The bird’s open beak contains a red-painted iron tongue, from which a long chain was suspended to support the sounding board above the pulpit. In 1847 the sculpture was removed from Saint John’s and installed in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall, where it remained until 1914. In that location, near the Liberty Bell and Rush’s 1815 carved wood statue of George Washington, its symbolism changed; once an attribute of the church’s patron saint, it metamorphosed into an icon of American patriotism.