Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Philip Reid Saves The Statue of Freedom

Philip Reid Saves The Statue of Freedom

Steven Sellers Lapham, Eugene Walton
Illustrator:  R. Gergory Christie 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2013   ISBN: 978-1585368198

Philip was born in the United States, the son of slaves who were captured in West Africa and brought to the southern states to work on plantations. Philip lived and worked on a plantation in South Carolina, learning from the craftsmen that he assisted every day. One day a skilled craftsman called Clark Mills came to the plantation to made decorative plaster moldings on the ceilings and walls in the master’s house. Philip was excited to assist Mr. Mills and was so helpful that Mr. Mills offered to buy Philip when the job was complete.

   Mr. Mills moved to the nation’s capital where he became a famous sculptor. Philip worked in Mr. Mills’ foundry, where he learned how to make and repair the plaster molds into which molten bronze was poured.

   In 1859 Mr. Mills was commissioned to cast a statue that would, when it was complete, be placed at the top of the dome of the new Capitol building. Mr. Mills and Philip traveled to the Capitol where the molds of the Statue of Freedom, were on display. When they got there they found out that there was a problem. The plaster molds for the statue, five in all, had been put together and the seams had been covered with plaster. Only one man, an Italian craftsman, knew where the seams of the five sections were, and he was not willing to tell them where the seams came together unless he was paid more money. No one else was willing to try to find the seams because they were afraid that they would destroy the expensive molds. Then Philip stepped forward. He was willing to try to find the hidden seams.  

   In this remarkable picture book the story of a slave craftsman is given life and we learn about how he used his skill to solve a problem that others were afraid to attempt. Philip Reid’s contribution to the creation of Freedom is described with great care. He is honored as one of the many slave craftsmen who worked to create a statue that represented the one thing that they all longed to have – freedom. At the back of the book the author provides readers with further information about Philip Reid, Clark Mills, and the Statue of Freedom.