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Congress, met in the old City Hall and organized the Washington National Monument Society. Subscriptions were asked for from the country at large, and when, in 1847, $87,000 had been contributed, the work of construction began. The design was executed by Robert Mills of South Carolina, who was at the time United States Architect, and comprised a granite shaft faced with white marble, “ 600 feet high, 55 feet square at the base, 30 feet square at the top, surrounded at its base by a circular colonnade or pantheon, in which to place statues of the nation's illustrious dead, with vaults beneath for the reception of their remains." The foundation—carried down but 8 feet below the surface—was built up of irregular blocks of blue gneiss set in lime, to a height of 25 feet, where it was 55 feet square. On this very insecure foundation the corner-stone of the great shaft was laid on the fourth day of July, 1848. The occasion was attended by quite imposing ceremonies. President Polk and his Cabinet, members of both Houses of Congress, the Diplomatic Corps, and distinguished officials and citizens of the country attended. The Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, the Speaker of the House, was orator of the day, and the Masonic fraternity conducted the ceremonies with the same gavel that General Washington had used in laying the corner-stone of the Capitol in 1792.

Beneath the corner-stone were deposited copies of the Constitution and of the Declaration of Independence; Messages of the Presidents, beginning with Washington; the portrait and inaugural address of each President; daguerreotypes of General and Mrs. Washington; a copy of the Bible; astronomical observations by M. Fontaine Maury, U. S. N., for 1845; journals of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Thirtieth Congress; list of the judges of the Supreme Court; an American flag; coat-of-arms of the Washington family; a set of United States coins, with specimens of Continental money; Harper's illustrated catalogue; and copies of newspapers from each State relating to Washington and the monument.

Among the notable guests present were Mrs. Dolly Madison, Mrs. Alexander Hamilton then ninety-one years of age ; Mrs. John Quincy Adams, Chief Justice Taney, and Abraham Lincoln then a member of Congress. The monument was pushed forward rapidly until 1855, when the funds of the society were exhausted. Congress was appealed to in vain, and as all efforts to obtain further contributions were unavailing, the work was stopped. The monument at this time had reached a height of 152 feet above the foundation. The civil war soon engaged the attention of the people, and nothing more was done until 1878, when Congress, spurred by the new spirit of improvement that had taken possession of the city, authorized the expenditure of $36,000, if deemed advisable, in giving greater stability to the foundation. This action was taken because grave doubts had been expressed by engineers as to the ability of the foundation to sustain the completed structure. A commission was appointed, and reported that the foundation was insufficient. To increase its strength the base was underpinned with


concrete masonry—this work, as well as that of completing the unfinished shaft, being entrusted to Colonel Thomas L. Casey, of the Engineer Corps. In May, 1880, the underpinning was reported finished and the foundation secure. During the summer an iron stairway and elevator shaft was carried up within the walls. On August 7, 1880, work on the unfinished shaft was begun, President Hayes laying the first stone, and on the 6th of December, 1884, the huge capstone, weighing 3,300 pounds, was declared ready to be placed in position. The 6th dawned dark and stormy; at two o'clock, the hour fixed for the ceremony, the rain had ceased, but the wind was blowing at the rate of sixty miles an hour. A few minutes before two the many observers who watched the huge shaft with their glasses saw a company of persons file out upon the small platform that hung at the base of the capstone, 550 feet in air. Each member of the group spread a few trowels full of cement upon the bed of the capstone, and the massive block was then lowered upon it. At the same moment a flag was waved from the platform, and booming cannon and pealing bells announced the completion of the memorial to Washington, ninetynine years after its inception. It will be interesting to examine the completed structure. It differs from the original design of Mr. Mills in that the circular colonnade at the base has been omitted, and it is a pure obelisk, the final fifty-five feet being a pyramidion (pyramid-shaped). The extreme point is a solid block of aluminum, nine inches in height, four and one half inches at the base, and weighing six pounds and a quarter. . The total height, from baseline to tip, is 555 feet,* and the weight 80,000 tons.


* The reader may wish to compare this with the following table of elevated points. Washington National Monument. Dome, Municipal Building, Philadelphia.


555 feet.


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