From around 1775 until the 1920s, America had an allegorical character symbolizing the nation’s civic virtues, and she was called Columbia. A week before arriving here in the District, I happily discovered that Ellen Berg, the most widely cited expert on Miss Columbia, lives inside the Capital Beltway.
In her writings, and when I interviewed her back in the spring, Ms. Berg states that Miss Columbia’s heyday was during the Civil War. Cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harper’s Magazine, illustrators Currier & Ives, and so many others used her as a symbol for the United States in their work. Later, while doing my occasional reading of the New York Times‘ very excellent Civil War history blog, Disunion, it hit me—Ellen Berg’s expertise would be perfect here.
Having received her okay to pitch them, I networked to the right person, and he took interest and Ellen took it from there. As published on 2 July, Ms. Berg writes a much more cogent description of Miss Columbia than I possibly could. And there are wonderful illustrations by the aforementioned artists. You’ll find it for your edification and enjoyment here.