Boston Public Library
Exhibitions

The Great Boston Fire, 1872 – Item 2 of 5

columbia
Thomas Nast, “Columbia Lays Aside Her Laurels to Mourn at the Burning of Her Birth-Place” from Harper’s Weekly, November 30, 1872.
Thomas Nast’s dramatic and symbolic representation of the devastation caused by the Great Fire was published in Harper’s Weekly, three weeks after the event.  Columbia, the historical female personification of the United States, is depicted in despair at the destruction of the city.  A hideous Gorgon sweeps fire across the sky, as Columbia shields her eyes from the monstrous flames that consume Boston – the proverbial birth place of liberty.  Casting aside her victory laurels representing recent political events, the goddess is overcome by grief to see the “Athens of America” succumb to the inferno.

 

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