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Miss Penn

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'Commonwealth' is the official name of the statue atop the dome of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. But if you would ask anyone on the streets of the city, they would tell you the statue's name is simply 'Miss Penn'.

The statue was designed by architect Joseph Huston to crown the great dome of the Capitol Rotunda. Sculptor Roland Hinton Perry was commissioned to create the bronze and gold gilded statue. Miss Penn was set into position atop the dome on 25 May, 1905. She has come down from her high perch only twice - in the 1940s and the late 1990s for regilding as the dome was repaired.

Many associate her with Letitia Penn, daughter of state founder Quaker William Penn and his first wife Gulielma Springett Penn. In fact, she is the creation of Huston. He said she 'represented the symbolic embodiment of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania'.

She is 14 feet 6 inches tall, and stands atop a gilt ball, facing west. The top of her head is 272 feet above the ground. Her right hand is extended in a kind of benediction and her left hand holds the standard of statehood, a rod with an eagle on top. In 1999 the US Treasury began the issue of commemorative quarters honouring all 50 states. The second one minted was the Pennsylvania quarter and on its obverse is Miss Penn standing before an outline of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Miss Penn's golden lustre had faded over the years so she was removed from the roof of the dome by helicopter on Saturday, 13 December, 1997 in a ceremony that drew hundreds of spectators and statewide media attention. She returned to her perch on 12 September, 1998, in a ceremony which drew thousands and national media attention. Regilded, she is expected to retain her golden appearance for at least 50 years.

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