"Out of the struggle of a hundred years ago have come liberty, peace and prosperity," notes Jennie Young in The Ceramic Art (New York, 1878), p. 294. The prototypes for this urn and its companion were designed by Haviland to celebrate the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia: they were titled "1776"- "The Struggle" and "1876"- "Prosperity." Young states that the vases "mirror the first century of America's life as a nation. They tell all or nearly all that history can tell of the passage of struggle of 1776 to the prosperity of 1876." The vase marked "1776", and the scaled down version offered here, feature a base of barren rock battered by waves and a battery of cannon. On the main body is a spread-winged eagle and the colors of the United States. Over the eagle are the names of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. A bust of George Washington after Houdon tops the vase and is flanked by the figures of Victory and Fame. It represents the entire struggle for independence. The companion centennial vase, dated "1876", symbolizes peace and prosperity. The presidents from Washington to Grant are inscribed above the eagle, in the same location as the signers are on this urn and the figure of Washington is replaced by Columbia.
These urns were designed and produced by the famed Haviland ceramic factory in Limoges, France. Haviland was founded by a New York shopkeeper, David Haviland. Working with French artisans, he created china that appealed to American taste, shipping his first wares to America in 1842. It was appropriate, therefore, that he had the artistic director of his design workshop in Paris, Felix Bracquemond, design two of the largest vases ever made for display at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition in 1876. The original urns were twelve feet high, and after the body was modeled, a kiln was built around them. At the time, they were the largest ever made in Europe. The actual sculptor of the vases was M. Delaplanche. The two large scale vases were presented to the Smithsonian Institution following the closing of the Centennial Exposition.