The Liberty Cap motif used in the cast iron ventilations at the “Jeff Davis Home” is unique to the First White House and has been adopted as the special emblem of the building and of the White House Association.
The Liberty Cap is taken from the Phrygian cap – a conical cap or bonnet with the peak turned over in front, associated in antiquity with the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia (now Turkey).
In Antiquity the Phrygian cap had two connotations: for the Greeks as showing a distinctive Eastern influence of non-Greeks, and among the Romans as a badge of Liberty.
In Revolutionary France the cap or bonnet rouge was first seen publicly in May 1790. To this day the national emblem of France is shown wearing a Phrygian cap. And starting in 1793 in America coinage frequently showed liberty wearing the cap. Washington Irving propounded the surprise of Rip Van Winkle by noting among the unexpected details of the re-awakened Rip’s newly post-revolutionary village a “tall naked pole, with something on it that looked like a red night cap…”
Check out our FWH website http://www.firstwhitehouse.org/ and you will see a picture of the Liberty Cap on the home page, left hand side, part way down!!!