The Congress of the United States commissioned Horatio Greenough to create this statue for display in the Capitol Rotunda. When the marble statue arrived in the Washington, D.C. in 1841, however, it immediately generated controversy and criticism.
Many found the sight of a half-naked Washington offensive, even comical. The statue was relocated to the east lawn of the Capitol in 1843. Disapproval continued and some joked that Washington was desperately reaching for his clothes, then on exhibit at the Patent Office several blocks to the north.
In 1908, Washington was finally brought back indoors when Congress transferred it to the Smithsonian Institution.
It remained at the Smithsonian Castle until 1964, when it was moved to the new Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History). The marble Washington has been exhibited on the second floor of that building since that time.
Edited image from Library of Congress digital collection. African American school children facing the Horatio Greenough statue of George Washington at the U.S. Capitol. Published c. 1899. by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864–1952, photographer.
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