Little Bits of History

The Washington Monument

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 21, 2010

The Washington Monument

February 21, 1885: The Washington Monument is dedicated. The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848. Due to an interruption of funds and the intervening Civil War, the capstone was not set until December 6, 1884. On October 9, 1888, it was finally officially opened to the public. It was the world’s tallest structure at 555 ft feet until the Eiffel Tower was completed. There are 893 steps to climb to reach the top if you choose to ignore the elevator.

George Washington was among the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was the only man to be unanimously elected to the Presidency after his successful leadership of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He was adamant about the checks and balances in the young government, and worked hard to create the triangle of shared power between the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches. He created, by virtue of being first, many precedents for the roles of President as well as expectations for the other two branches of the young nation. Even though encouraged by others, he chose to downplay the power inherent in the position and made the role of President one of far less pomp and bluster.

The marble, granite, and sandstone obelisk was designed by Robert Mills who died nearly thirty years before the obelisk was finished.. His original design called for a Grecian rotunda to be built at the base. Because of the interruption in the construction of the monument, there is a difference in shading of the marble that is visible approximately 150 feet  (about 27%) up, showing where construction was resumed in 1876.

Sitting atop the obelisk is a pyramidion 55 feet in height and weighs 627,000 pounds. The capstone is made of aluminum – a valuable metal about equal to silver at the time – that weighs 100 ounces and was the largest-to-date single cast piece of the metal. It was displayed at Tiffany’s in New York City prior to installation. At Tiffany’s, it was set on the floor so people could jump over it. They were able to say they leapt over the top of the Washington Monument.

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

“The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government” – all from George Washington

Also on this day, in 1848 The Communist Manifesto was published.

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  1. […] on this day: The Washington Monument – In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated. Communist Manifesto – In 1848, Karl Marx and […]


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