The Progress of Railroading
|Dimensions||18 ft (5.5 m) each for 6 figures|
|Location||Washington, D.C., United States|
The Progress of Railroading is group of public artworks by American artist Louis St. Gaudens. This series of six sculptures were cut by Andrew E. Bernasconi, a high-grade Italian stone workman, between 1909 and 1911. These statues are located at Union Station in Washington, D.C., United States. The sculptures represent deities related to rail transport in the United States.
Six figures which stand at 18 feet high are on the main facade of the Union Station building. These granite sculptures are placed above three connected triumphal arches that make up the main entrance of the building. The six figures represent and mean:
- Archimedes - Mechanics
- Ceres - Agriculture
- Apollo - Imagination or Inspiration
- Themis - Freedom or Justice
- Thales - Electricity
- Prometheus - Fire
The east and west figures are meant to deal with the operational system behind railroads and the center figures represent creativity.
The west section is inscribed:
- FIRE - GREATEST OF DISCOVERIES
- ENABLING MAN TO LIVE IN VARIOUS CLIMATES
- USE MANY FOODS - AND COMPEL THE
- FORCES OF NATURE TO DO HIS WORK
- ELECTRICITY - CARRIER OF LIGHT AND POWER
- DEVOURER OF TIME AND SPACE - BEARER
- OF HUMAN SPEECH OVER LAND AND SEA
- GREATEST SERVANT OF MAN - ITSELF UNKNOWN
- THOU HAST PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET
The center is inscribed:
- SWEETENER OF HUT AND OF HALL
- BRINGER OF LIFE OUT OF NAUGHT
- FREEDOM O FAIREST OF ALL
- THE DAUGHTERS OF TIME AND THOUGHT
- MAN'S IMAGINATION HAS CONCEIVED ALL
- NUMBERS AND LETTERS ALL TOOLS VESSELS
- AND SHELTERS - EVERY ART AND TRADE ALL
- PHILOSOPHY AND POETRY - AND ALL POLITIES
- THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE
The east side is inscribed:
- THE FARM - BEST HOME OF THE FAMILY - MAIN
- SOURCE OF NATIONAL WEALTH - FOUNDATION OF
- CIVILIZED SOCIETY - THE NATURAL PROVIDENCE
- THE OLD MECHANIC ARTS CONTROLLING NEW
- FORCES BUILD NEW HIGHWAYS FOR GOODS
- AND MEN OVERRIDE THE OCEAN AND MAKE
- THE VERY ETHER CARRY HUMAN THOUGHT
- THE DESERT SHALL REJOICE AND BLOSSOM
- AS THE ROSE
Two eagles also flank the left and right side of the arches.
When the Station was being constructed debate erupted regarding "who" the figures would be or represent. Historical American figures were considered, however, they did not fit into the Baroque architecture of the building, therefore allegorical figures were chosen. Many people were consulted regarding what figures to have St. Gaudens sculpt including Charles W. Eliot, the former president of Harvard University.
- Wasserman, James. The Secrets of Masonic Washington: A Guidebook to Signs, Symbols, and Ceremonies at the Origin of America's Capital. Destiny Books, 2008. ISBN 1-59477-266-5
- Goode, John Washington Sculpture. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008, p. 15.
- Smithsonian (1994). "The Progress of Railroading, (sculpture)". Save Outdoor Sculpture. Smithsonian. Retrieved 14 Feb 2011.