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Columbia is a common symbol for America.
As a quasi-mythical figure, Columbia first appears in the poetry of 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.
- Especially in the 19th century, Columbia would be visualized as a goddess-like female national personification of the United States, 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".
- The image of the personified Columbia was never fixed, but she was most often presented as a youthful women often dressed with a red garment around her waist with bare breast. She is often either holding a torch or a red flag with both showing America as either extremely patiortic or bearing the light for the "...weary souls of the oppressed." as James K Polk put it after approving the poster of Columbia to advertise enistment in the Mexican-American War. Recently Columbia has been shown with a more youthful look and a more beautiful figure and body.