The Coming of the Pioneers depicts a pair of oxen pulling a Conestoga wagon. In the foreground of the relief, four adults walk next to the wagon, holding what they will need for settling in Nebraska. The older man in the front holds a divining rod, a tool to find water. The young man beside him carries a basket of agricultural seeds over his shoulder. The man behind them carries a rifle in his arm for hunting food. Next to him, a woman carries a baby meant to symbolize the future generations of Nebraskans.
In the background of the relief, a man rides a horse while he looks backward. In front of him an eagle flies in front of the horse, pointing westward. A dog ahead of the pioneers looks back.
The exterior reliefs of the Capitol depict the history of western civilization. The Nebraska State Capitol is clad in Indiana Limestone.
About Lee Lawrie
Lee Lawrie was born in Germany in 1877 and came to America with his family four years later. As a young boy, he sketched the world around him and it became apparent he had great artistic talent. His first formal job as an artist came at 14 when he was hired in a sculptor’s studio to do odd jobs. It was at this job he taught himself how to model clay in the evenings. He would eventually attend Yale where he earned a bachelor’s of fine arts. He stayed at Yale where he taught until 1919.
Lawrie and Bertram Goodhue met in the late 1800s when the two began collaborating on various projects. Lawrie specialized in architectural sculpture, which was a direct compliment to Goodhue’s appreciation of early Gothic revival designs. The two would achieve a breakthrough in their approach during the construction of the Nebraska State Capitol. They created an approach that fused architecture and sculpture into an integrated and simple design.