Plaster Eagle and Stars

An exact replica of the eagle and stars design was installed in 1953/1954 during structural restoration of the ceiling of the Entrance Hall.[1]  No mention of this ceiling ornament has yet been found in any of the documents of Jefferson's time. Benson Lossing, visiting Monticello in 1853, wrote that "the centre of the ceiling is ornamented by an eagle in very low relief, surrounded by eighteen stars, the number of the States in the Union in 1812, when this ceiling was made."[2] 

Louisiana, the eighteenth state, was admitted in 1812, and Indiana became the nineteenth state in 1816. No confirming evidence for this explanation of the number of stars, or reason for their differing numbers of points has yet come to light. Recent research indicates that in Jefferson's time, the eagle and stars were white (first bare plaster, then whitewashed).


1. This article is based on Lucia Stanton, Monticello Research Report, 1990.

2. Merrill Peterson, ed., Visitors to Monticello (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1989), 141.



Jefferson was such a meticulous record keeper and really had an eye to his legacy, so there is so much we have primary information about. The eagle on the ceiling in Monticello's entrance hall is a bit of a mystery, though.

Add comment

Login to post comments