Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom
School Library Journal (Mar 2014)
The Statue of Freedom, which sits high atop the dome of the U.S. Capitol, would not be the symbol it is today without the ingenuity of an enslaved African American laborer. Philip Reid was owned by the renowned sculptor Clark Mills and by 1859 was an experienced foundry worker. When Mills was commissioned to cast Freedom in bronze, the two men retrieved the plaster model, only to be met with a conundrum. A room full of craftsmen and engineers were puzzled as to how to dismantle the plaster model for transport without cracking it, thereby making it useless and impossible to cast. Mills offered the expertise of Reid, who, through the use of a tackle and pulley, solved the problem that left so many others perplexed. He not only earned their respect but made a lasting contribution to the heritage of our nation. Commendable in its acknowledgment of the enslaved work force to which we owe much of the nation’s capital, the book nonetheless leaves readers with as many questions as answers. Primary sources are reproduced in the back matter, but they offer little insight into actual events. While directly stating that much remains unknown about Reid’s childhood, the authors still fabricate parts of the story, providing speculative assumptions on the thoughts and feelings of the individuals involved with no supportive evidence. Yet the story remains a testament to how one man’s experience and expertise in his trade can overcome social prejudice and injustice while earning the respect of peers. Christie’s striking, evocative illustrations enhance the text. For collections needing materials on themes presented herein, this is a suitable purchase, albeit secondary.
—Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library