“Faith in America’s Future” commemorates the United States’ perseverance and unity and marks the sesquicentennial year of the placement of the Statue of Freedom atop the new Capitol Dome in 1863. When the Civil War threatened to bring construction of the Dome to a halt, workers pressed onward, even without pay, until Congress approved additional funding to complete the Dome that would become a symbol of unity and democracy to the entire world.
On March 4, 1861, when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office, the half-built dome epitomized a nation being torn in two. Slowly and steadily, work continued on the massive dome during the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Skilled and unskilled workers, including African Americans who began the project enslaved and continued as free labor following the D.C. Emancipation Act of 1862, performed arduous tasks such as operating machinery at dangerous heights to hoist the heavy cast iron pieces into place.
The year 1863 was one of the most fateful in our nation’s history. It began with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, and ended with a celebration of the new Capitol Dome crowned by the Statue of Freedom in December. It also was the year of the first homestead claim, the start of the first transcontinental railroad, the opening of the first land grant college, and President Lincoln’s historic and visionary Gettysburg Address. President Lincoln himself saw the importance of pushing ahead with the Dome despite staggering obstacles. “If people see the Capitol going on,” he proclaimed, “it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”