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Washington Monument Finished 47 Years Ago
BY CH4RI.ES B. DEGGES. MEN leaned on singing wind that afternoon while rain clouds that had poured their torrents all morning were scudding across the low-ceilinged sky. Wet timbers that seemed frail like matchwood aloft there in the elements shivered under the blast. Damp ropes rove through ponderous blocks were like hairy bars as they vibrated from the ton-and-a-half burden of dull white they supported. A thousand glasses-—fi~ld glasses and tele scopes they were, and even opera glasses— were trained on the lofty drama from more secure places below. From somewhere up there, a man's voice, almost god-like in its power so near the streaking clouds, sang out its command above the tumult of tre winds: “Lower a-waaa-a-a-a-y 1" The sheaves in the great blocks turned. The hempen bars lengthened The wind-lashed men held their breath. A great stone pyramid settled slowly on newly-spread cement. The tackle was quickly unshipped and the pyramid was crowned with an aluminum tip. The Flag of the United States broke out to the wind from somewhere above the timber frame and cannon thundered in salute below. The Washington Monument was finished! And then, meeting in the top of the shaft as near as possible to the capstone that had been set a few minutes before, the Washington National Monument Society, which had steered the memorial project through multitudinous trials to that successful climax, adopted a resolution which officially proclaimed the monument's completion. It was: “Resolved. That we are thankful to have had the opportunity of this occasion, and at this elevation, to congratulate the American people on the completion of this enduring monument of our Nation's gratitude to the Father of His Country." And this—47 years ago this afternoon. THE setting of that 3,300-pound capstone with its aluminum tip on December 6. 1884, marked the end of a struggle through the mire of dilatoriness, political and religious erup tions, and indecision which, but for the stal wart determination of the gentlemen who con stituted* the Washington National Monument Society might have produced a national dis grace instead of a Nation's tribute to its hero. As it was. 101 years elapsed between the reso lution of the Continental Crngress to erect a memorial to George Washington and the place ment of the metal tip on the peak of the fin ished shaft. In its resolution of August 7, 1783, the Con tinental Congress expressed its determination to erect an equestrian statue of Washington,s meaning then to honor him as the man who led the Colonial armies in the Revolutionary War The sculptured general and his horse, the early Congress agreed, were to be mounted on a pedestal on the four sides of which were to be carved representations of the "four prin cipal events of the war in which he commanded In person.” The changes through which that original Idea passed in tf.e memorial's evolution from an equestrian statue to a stately marble shaft 555 feet in height are rivaled only by the swift change In American national events which paralleled them. Confronted with an impend ing revolt of the unpaid soldiers even when it resolved to honor the commanding officer of those soldiers, the Continental Congress became virtually a fugitive body, meeting where and when it could. Washington himself prevented the threatened revolt by a personal appeal to his old troopers. The Constitutional Conven tion was held in Philadelphia and under the instrument It produced Washington became the first President, serving his country with a dis tinction which heightened his right to be hon ored by a memorial. Prom the original idea for a statue, the memorial ran the gamut of men’s inspiration. There was a proposal shortly after Washing ton's death, in 1799, to build "a marble monu ment” in which, with the permission of his family, the patriot's body was to be entombed. It subsequently was proposed to enshrine Washington’s body in a crypt beneath the floor of the rotunda of the Capitol and erect over that grave a sculptured likeness of the man. Another idea called for the construction of a great pantheon out of which would be reared a 500-foot obelisk, the whole structure to be a stately tomb for Washington's body that was to rest in its center. in ibz.1 president John Quincy Adams re minded Congress of the congressional resolu tion of 1799. But the reminder was unheeded, and in 1832 the question was introduced to Congress again, when it was proposed to trans fer Washington's body to a tomb beneath the Capitol rotunda. This idea failed of ac complishment when differences of opinion arose over the moving of the body. At last, though. Congress agreed to place a sculptured likeness of the patriot in the ro tunda and In 1841, it actually was erected there. This statue was moved subsequently to the east park of the Capitol and later trans ferred to the Smithsonian Institution where it stands today Then in 1853 Congress appropriated *50,000 for the creation of an equestrian statue of the First President by the then eminent sculptor, Clark Mills. This bronze sculpture, representing Gen. Washington at the Battle of Princeton, was placed In the public circle at ’Twenty third street and Pennsylvania avenue, now Washington Circle, where it has remained. But those two statues were not the kind of memorial Congress had several times pledged iteelf to erect. Thinking citizens became rest less at the legislative body's dilatory attitude and when, in September. 1833, the National Intelligencer, leading newspaper of the Cap ital at the time, printed a paragraph calling for a public meeting of the citizens of the Cap ital the people themselves took the first step in the determined march that led to the setting of the capstone of the monument 47 years ago Dramatic Incident of Setting the Capstone on December 6, 1884', Marked Completion, AfterLongl delay, of the Memorial Shaft % and the End of a Hurculean Task. 7 he flag of the United States broke out to the wind from somewhere above the timber frame, and cannon thundered in salute below. The Washington Mon ument was finished/” OUT of that meeting grew the Washington National Monument Society. On Oc tober 31 of the same year the society's by laws and constitution were adopted and its first officers were selected. John Marshall, the great Chief Justice, who then was 78 years old, was named president of the society and Judge Wil liam Cranch, eminent jurist of the time, was chosen vice president. Other officers elected at the same meeting included John P. Van Ness, mayor of Washington, second vice presi dent; W. W. Seaton, third vice president;* Sam uel H. Smith, treasurer, and George Watterson, secretary. The original board of managers, named at the same time, Included Gen. Thomas S. Jessup, Col. James Kearney, Col. Nathan Towson. Col. Archibald Henderson, Matthew St. Claire Clark, John McClelland, Thomas Munroe, Col. George Bromford, Robert C. Weightman, Peter Force. William Brent, Wil liam A. Bradley and Thomas Carbery. The new society lost no time in launching the task it had undertaken. It voiced an ap peal to the people of the United States to “re deem the pledges made by Congress,” and In order to give a large portion of the Nation's population the opportunity to aid in the rear ing of the monument, the society limited in dividual donations to $1. Progress in collect mg mnas at nrst was considered slow, for by 1836, only $28,000 had been donated. Never theless, it was in this year that the society in vited American artists to submit designs for the memorial. No specification was made as to the "form” of the memorial, but it was de termined by the society that any plans sub mitted "should harmoniously blend durability, simplicity and grandeur.” The estimated cost was placed at not less than $1,000,000. Robert Mills, a prominent architect of the day, submitted the plan which was selected. His idea called for the erection of a 500-foot obelisk rising out of the center of a 100-foot high pantheon. This pantheon was to form a vast rotunda, 250 feet In diameter, which was to house statues of the national great. Be neath the shaft was to be the tomb of George Washington, while the whole structure was to embrace a form of catacombs to receive the bodies of other American characters who might be honored by burial there. The pantheon structure, however, was never formally adopted by the Washington National Monument Society, which set its purpose first to secure funds for the erection of the great shaft. In 1838, the society appealed to Congress to name a site for the proposed monument on the Mall. During discussions on a bill in the Sen ate to this end bitter criticism was leveled at the society. Upon being told that $30,000 had been collected and invested \t interest. Senator Allen of Ohio retorted that t\iat much had been collected in his own State. In a subsequent itemized statement, it was revealed that Ohio had contributed, up to that time, *6,391.19. More time was consumed during the period which followed in renewing appeals to the public for funds. In 1845 the dollar limitation was lifted and the total receipts encouragingly increased. In 1847, Mrs. James Madison. Mrs. Alexander Hamilton and Mrs. John Quincy Adams effected an organization of prominent women which did much to add to the growing monument fund. It was not until January, 1848, when the so ciety was on the verge of seeking private lands for the purpose, that Congress authorized it to erect the monument “upon such portion of the public grounds or reservations within the City of Washington, not otherwise occupied as shall be selected by the President of the United States and the board of managers of the said society.” The present location of the monu ment was designated as the site and the comer stone of the great shaft was laid on July 4, 1848. ’ unnice tne day, 47 years ago, when the cap stone was set, that July 4 was ideal. Rain had fallen in the morning and served to “lay the dust and infuse a delicious freshness in the air,” as the National Intelligencer reported. A groyp of notables, including the 91-year-old Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, Mrs. Dolly Paine Madison and George Washington Parks Custis witnessed the ceremonies. And so was con struction of the shaft definitely launched. The Washington National Monument So ciety redoubled its efforts once construction was under way. To give every State a definite part in the physical shaft, it invited them to send stones to be placed within the rising tower itself. Appeals for funds went out at intervals addressed to school children, to banks. Masonic bodies, the Navy’s officers, and other specific groups. Six years after the laying of the corner stone the shaft had reached a height of 156 feet. Donations of funds received a setback in 1854, when unidentified vandals seized a marble block which the fope had sent for placement in the shaft. While it never was learned def initely what became of the stone after it was hauled from the Monument grounds, it is be lieved that it was defaced and then dumped into the Potomac River. Likewise, while the vandals never were apprehended, despite the vigorous efforts of the Monument Society to identify them, it is popularly believed the des ecration was the work of members or agents of the ' Know-Nothing party.” The business and political unrest of that year further weak* ened enthusiasm for the monument which the destruction of the papal stone had creat d. Hence the Monument Society was left with virtually no money on hand and no new fundk °n the horizon. THEN the society appealed to Congress to take any action it deemed proper. Fol lowing a careful review of all the society had done, a House Committee recommended that $200,000 be appropriated to aid in the com pletion of the shaft. Appropriation of this sum was halted, however, when an unauthorized as sembly of men purported to elect new officers for the Monument Society. Evidence indioated that the plot was evolved in the lodges of the “Know-Nothing party” and that the persons who voted in the pretended election balloted on the face of certificates of membership from which no money ever reached the society's treasury. This “Know-Nothing” board of officers suc ceeded in seizing the Monument project and actually adding two courses of previously re jected marble to the shaft. Further, this board remained in force until October, 1858, when it relinquished control after failing mis erably in it3 efforts to collect funds. Congress finally came to the rescue of the real Wash ington National Monument Society on Febru ary 22, 1859, when it granted a charter to the organization, incorporating it “for the purpose of completing the erection now in progress of a great national monument” to Washington. Congress sought to aid again that year when at the request of the society, it appointed »n engineer officer to superintend the construc tion. Lieut. J. C. Ives was detailed to the work and he undertook to aid in raising funds. He also recommended'that the height of the shaft be reduced from the originally proposed 600 feet to 500 feet and at tbe same time approved the shaft's foundations. Lieut. Ives remained in the assignment until 1860, when he was re lieved. Meanwhile time dragged on and the shaft remained at a standstill. Congress, again be coming interested, in 1873 appointed a com mittee to confer with the society on the status of the pending work. No appropriation was made then, however, but in 1876 Congress passed an act in which it took over the task of completing the monument. Once more structural work was resumed and after a pause of more than 20 years the walls of the obelisk “»cir siow cumo to completion. Under the skillful guidance of Lieut. Col. Thomas Lincoln Casey of the Corps of En gineers, U. S. Army, the foundation was strengthened and the masonry walls with their crowning pyramidion were reared into the sky At lasL—December 6, 4884—the final stone was to be set. It was a great pyramid weigh ing 3,300 pounds. The top was flattened and hollowed. Heavy timbers formed a pyramidical crane directly over 4fie center of the shaft and the capstone was slowly hauled aloft. It had rained furiously all morning, but at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, when the capstone was sched uled to be set, only the wind and scudding clouds remained of the storm. Instruments on the scaffolding showed a wind velocity of 60 miles an hour, but the work went ahead. Bracing themselves against the storm, the men on the scaffolding spread cement on the bearing surface of the converging walls. At a given signal the capstone was lowered gently into place. So accurately had it been meas ured and cut, not a chip had to be removed once the stone was in its place. Cement was spread over the shoulder of the capstone and the aluminum tip was fitted snugly into the hollow at the stone’s peak. That metal tip itself a little pyramid, tells an eloquent story in the engravings on its four faces. On one is inscribed: “Chief Engineer and Architect, Thomas Lincoln Casey, Colonel, Corps of En gineers; Assistants, George W. Davis, Four teenth United States Infantry; Bernard R. Green, Civil Engineer; P. H. McLaughlin, Mas ter Mechanic.” On a second face is engraved: “Corner stone laid on bed of foundation July 4, 1848. First stone at height of 152 feet laid August 7, 1880. Capstone set December 6, 1884.” A third face bears: "Joint Commission at setting of capstone. Chester A. Arthur, W. W. Corcoran. M. E. Bell, Edward Clark, John New ton. Act of August 2, 1876." And on the final face: “Laus Deo”—Praise be to God. / Chemists See Coal As Th Tee Substances ^OAL to the average person is divided into two classes, hard coal and soft coal, but to the chemist coal in reality is a mixture of three substances, and the percentage in which the two more important are present deterTines the employability of the coals. These three substances are anthraxylon, at tritus and fusain. Fortunately for the users of coal, the fusain is the least in quantity, for this is the material which causes clinkers. The origin of the fusain has long been debated, and so far to no satisfactory conclusion. It is apparent, however, that it originates in woody tissue of the plants from which the coal was formed. Coal, under the microscope, consists of two general types—one in which the form of the original plant life is preserved, and the other in which all form has been lost, either through crushing or the action of micro-organisms. Anthraxylon is the part of coal which pre serves the original outlines of the plant ma- ’ terial. It represents the undisintegrated woody tissues which, under the microscope, clearly * show the original cell structure. Bright bands of coal are usually anthraxylon, the bands varying in thickness from a few millimeters to several centimeters. The gloss varies with the rank of the ccal, and the higher the rank the higher is the luster. Coals which coke well are usually rich in anthraxylon. for the structure of the coal readily perrits the passage of air under heat without fusing as is tlic case with coal rich in attritus. The attritus has many of the properties and components found in peat, although in a much more compressed toon.