Phrygian Cap of Liberty

The Phrygian cap, found in heraldry of the past and present, is a soft, red, conical cap originally worn by the people of Phrygia.


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The Greek twins, Castor and Pollux wore a similar cap. King Midas, after being cursed by Apollo, donned one to hide his donkey ears. Some of his subjects, thinking this to be a fashion statement, began wearing them as well.

Within the Roman Empire the cap was worn by former slaves who had been freed and marked them as citizens of Rome. It’s believed this is where the cap became a symbol of freedom and the pursuit of liberty.

During the American War of Independence, this red cap was hoisted aloft liberty poles. These poles were erected in town squares before and during the war, in

  • Caughnawaga, New York
  • Concord, Massachusetts
  • Newport, Rhode Island
  • New York City
  • Savannah, Georgia

The Liberty Pole in New York City had a gilt vane, with the single word ‘Liberty’.

This 1871 Liberty dollar, displays a liberty pole with the famous cap perched on top.


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As a symbol of liberty, the cap can be seen in many seals and coats of arms. The U.S. Army has a War Office Seal with the motto ‘This We'll Defend’ displayed over a Phrygian cap on an upturned sword.

Washington Irving wrote of Rip Van Winkle re-awakening to find a “tall, naked pole, with something on it that looked like a red night cap…”

The state flags of West Virginia, New Jersey, and New York display this famous red symbol of freedom. So does the official seal of the United States Senate, the arms of the North Carolina Senate, and the reverse side of the Seal of Virginia.


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The French Revolution also adopted the cap, as seen in this 1793 painting in the Republic of Mainz.


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Marianne, the national emblem of France, is the bust of a lady…she still wears her red cap.


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The United Irish also claimed the cap as part of their badge, where it sits atop a staff or spear


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Today, the cap is displayed on the coat of arms or national flags of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua.


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The Quebec Winter Carnival is the biggest in the world. The official ambassador is ‘Bonhomme Carnaval’, a snowman donning his red cap.


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In ‘The Smurfs’, a cartoon of the 1980’s, they wore white Phrygian caps, with Papa Smurf sometimes donning a red one.


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In Cornwall, the Pixies are described as wearing a Phrygian cap.

Even a mushroom bears the name ‘Liberty Cap’. It’s easy to see why ~


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