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Plaster Eagle and Stars

An exact replica of the eagle and stars design was installed on the ceiling of Monticello's Entrance Hall during structural restoration in 1953/1954. No mention of this ceiling ornament has yet been found in any documents from Thomas 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."1

Louisiana, the eighteenth state, was admitted in 1812, and Indiana became the nineteenth state in 1816. No confirming evidence for Lossing's explanation of the number of stars, or any 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).

- Lucia Stanton, Monticello Research Report, 1990

Comments

ksmeltzer's picture
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.
Kristie Smeltzer

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