Columbia (name)
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Columbia Name
Personified Columbia in American flag gown and Phrygian cap, which signifies freedom and the pursuit of liberty, from a World War I patriotic poster

"Columbia" (; k?-LUM-bee-?) is a historical name used by both Europeans and Americans to describe the Americas, the New World, and often, more specifically, the United States of America. It is also a name given to the "Spirit of the Frontier" of which was used to illustrate Manifest Destiny among several other American political causes. It has given rise to the names of many persons, places, objects, institutions, and companies; e.g., Columbia University, the District of Columbia (the national capital), and the ship Columbia Rediviva, which would give its name to the Columbia River. Images of the Statue of Liberty largely displaced personified Columbia as the female symbol of the U.S. by around 1920.[1]

Columbia is a New Latin toponym, in use since the 1730s, for the Thirteen Colonies. It originated from the name of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus and from the ending -ia, common in Latin names of countries (paralleling Britannia, Gallia etc.).

History

A defiant Columbia in an 1871 Thomas Nast cartoon, shown protecting a defenseless Chinese man from an angry Irish lynch mob that has just burned down an orphanage
Columbia in an 1865 Thomas Nast cartoon, asking the U.S. government to allow black U.S. soldiers to vote
Columbia and an early rendition of Uncle Sam in an 1869 Thomas Nast cartoon, having Thanksgiving dinner with a diverse group of immigrants.[2][3]
The Bust of Columbia depicted on U.S. Fractional currency
Carte de visite c. 1866, featuring a woman dressed as Columbia and a man dressed as a Revolutionary War general
This 1872 painting depicts Columbia as the "Spirit of the Frontier", carrying telegraph lines across the Western frontier to fulfill Manifest Destiny
Columbia wearing a warship bearing the words "World Power" as her "Easter bonnet" (cover of Puck, April 6, 1901)

Massachusetts Chief Justice Samuel Sewall used the name Columbina (not Columbia) for the New World in 1697.[4] The name Columbia for "America" first appeared in 1738[5][6] in the weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament in Edward Cave's The Gentleman's Magazine. Publication of Parliamentary debates was technically illegal, so the debates were issued under the thin disguise of Reports of the Debates of the Senate of Lilliput, and fictitious names were used for most individuals and placenames found in the record. Most of these were transparent anagrams or similar distortions of the real names; some few were taken directly from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels; and a few others were classical or neoclassical in style. Such were Ierne for Ireland, Iberia for Spain, Noveborac for New York (from Eboracum, the Roman name for York), and Columbia for America--at the time used in the sense of "European colonies in the New World".[7]

The name was perhaps first coined by Samuel Johnson, thought to have been the author of an introductory essay (in which "Columbia" already appears) which explained the conceit of substituting "Lilliputian" for English names; Johnson also wrote down the Debates from 1740 to 1743. The name continued to appear in The Gentleman's Magazine until December 1746. Columbia seems an obvious calque on America, substituting the base of the surname of the discoverer Christopher Columbus for the base of the given name of the somewhat less well-known Amerigo Vespucci Vespucius.

As the debates of Parliament, many of whose decisions directly affected the colonies, were distributed and closely followed in the British colonies in America, the name "Columbia" would have been familiar to the United States' founding generation.

In the second half of the 18th century, the American colonists were beginning to acquire a sense of having an identity distinct from that of their British cousins on the other side of the ocean. At that time, it was common for European countries to use a Latin name in formal or poetical contexts to confer an additional degree of respectability on the country concerned.[8] In many cases, these nations were personified as pseudo-classical goddesses named with these Latin names. Located on a continent unknown to and unnamed by the Romans, "Columbia" was the closest that the Americans could come to emulating this custom.

By the time of the Revolution, the name Columbia had lost the comic overtone of its "Lilliputian" origins and had become established as an alternative, or poetic name for America. While the name America is necessarily scanned with four syllables, according to 18th-century rules of English versification, Columbia was normally scanned with three, which is often more metrically convenient. The name appears, for instance, in a collection of complimentary poems written by Harvard graduates in 1761, on the occasion of the marriage and coronation of King George III.[9]

Behold, Britannia! in thy favour'd Isle;
At distance, thou, Columbia! view thy Prince,
For ancestors renowned, for virtues more;[10]

The name "Columbia" rapidly came to be applied to a variety of items reflecting American identity. A ship built in Massachusetts in 1773, received the name Columbia Rediviva; it later became famous as an exploring ship, and lent its name to new "Columbias."

No serious consideration was given to using the name Columbia as an official name for the independent United States,[] but with independence the name became popular and was given to many counties, townships, and towns, as well as other institutions, e.g.:

Columbia (representing the American people) reaches out to oppressed Cuba with blindfolded Uncle Sam in background; Judge Feb. 6, 1897; cartoon by Grant E. Hamilton

In part, the more frequent usage of the name Columbia reflected a rising American neoclassicism, exemplified in the tendency to use Roman terms and symbols. The selection of the eagle as the national bird, the heraldric use of the eagle, the use of the term Senate to describe the upper house of Congress, and the naming of Capitol Hill and the Capitol building were all conscious evocations of Roman precedents.

The adjective Columbian has been used to mean "of or from the United States of America", for instance in the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois. It has occasionally been proposed as an alternative word for "American".

Columbian should not be confused with the adjective "Pre-Columbian", referring to a time period before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Personification

As a quasi-mythical figure, Columbia first appears in the poetry of African-American Phillis Wheatley starting in 1776 during the revolutionary war:

One century scarce perform'd its destined round,
When Gallic powers Columbia's fury found;
And so may you, whoever dares disgrace
The land of freedom's heaven-defended race!
Fix'd are the eyes of nations on the scales,
For in their hopes Columbia's arm prevails.[11]

Especially in the 19th century, Columbia would be visualized as a goddess-like female national personification of the United States and of Liberty itself, comparable to the British Britannia, the Italian Italia Turrita, and the French Marianne, often seen in political cartoons of the 19th-early 20th century. This personification was sometimes called "Lady Columbia" or "Miss Columbia". Such iconography usually personified America in the form of an Indian queen or Native American princess[12]

Columbia at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

The image of the personified Columbia was never fixed, but she was most often presented as a woman between youth and middle age, wearing classically-draped garments decorated with stars and stripes. A popular version gave her a red-and-white-striped dress and a blue blouse, shawl, or sash, spangled with white stars. Her headdress varied; sometimes it included feathers reminiscent of a Native American headdress; sometimes it was a laurel wreath, but most often it was a cap of liberty.

Early in World War I (1914-1918) the image of Columbia standing over a kneeling "Doughboy" was issued in lieu of the Purple Heart Medal. She gave "to her son the accolade of the new chivalry of humanity" for injuries sustained in "the" World War.

Lady Columbia recognized the WWI "Doughboy" soldier as having suffered injury due to his willingness to serve humanity.

In World War I the name "Liberty Bond" for savings bonds was heavily publicized, often with images from the Statue of Liberty. The personification of Columbia fell out of use, and she was largely replaced by the Statue of Liberty as a feminine symbol of the United States.[13] When Columbia Pictures adopted Columbia as its logo in 1924, she appeared (and still appears) bearing a torch--similar to the Statue of Liberty, and unlike 19th-century depictions of Columbia.

Statues of the personified Columbia may be found, among others, in the following places:

Modern appearances

Political cartoon from 1860 depicting Stephen A. Douglas receiving a spanking from Columbia as Uncle Sam looks on approvingly

Since 1800, the name Columbia has been used for a wide variety of items:

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Donald Dewey (2007). The Art of Ill Will: The Story of American Political Cartoons. NYU Press. p. 13. ISBN 9780814719855. 
  2. ^ Kennedy, Robert C. (November 2001). "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner, Artist: Thomas Nast". On This Day: HarpWeek. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on November 23, 2001. Retrieved 2001. 
  3. ^ Walfred, Michele (July 2014). "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner: Two Coasts, Two Perspectives". Thomas Nast Cartoons. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved 2016. 
  4. ^ Thomas J. Schlereth, "Columbia, Columbus, and Columbianism" in The Journal of American History, v. 79, no. 3 (1992), 939
  5. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 8, June 1738, p. 285
  6. ^ Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Dec. 1885, pp. 159-65
  7. ^ Debates in Parliament, Samuel Johnson.
  8. ^ E.g. "Gallia" for France, "Helvetia" for Switzerland, "Lusitania" for Portugal, "Caledonia" for Scotland, "Hibernia" for Ireland, "Polonia" for Poland etc.
  9. ^ Hoyt, Albert. "The Name 'Columbia'", The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, July 1886, pp. 310-13.
  10. ^ Pietas et Gratulatio Collegii Cantabrigiensis apud Novanglos, no. xxix. Boston, Green and Russell, 1761.
  11. ^ Selections from Phillis Wheatley Poems and Letters Archived 2006-09-08 at Archive.is
  12. ^ "Origins: The Female Form as Allegory". 
  13. ^ David E. Nye (1996). American Technological Sublime. MIT Press. p. 266. ISBN 9780262640343. 
  14. ^ "Hail Columbia". Hail Columbia. Retrieved 2013. 
  15. ^ Literata (2011). "Columbia". The Order of the White Moon Goddess Gallery. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved 2013. 
  16. ^ Hatchett, Charles (1802), "Outline of the Properties and Habitudes of the Metallic Substance, lately discovered by Charles Hatchett, Esq. and by him denominated Columbium", Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts, I (January): 32-34. 
  17. ^ Nicholson, William, ed. (1809), The British Encyclopedia: Or, Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Comprising an Accurate and Popular View of the Present Improved State of Human Knowledge, 2, Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, p. 284. 
  18. ^ Bernard F. Dick. The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 40-42. 

References

External links


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Columbia_(name)
 



 

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