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American History

#OTD 1884: Marble Capstone & Pyramid of Cast Aluminium Placed on Washing Monument Completing the Egyptian Obelisk

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.06: 2022:

#AceHistoryDesk – Today in History – On December 6, 1884, workers placed the 3,300-pound marble capstone on the Washington Monument and topped it with a nine-inch pyramid of cast aluminum, completing construction of the 555-foot Egyptian obelisk.

Washington Monument. Horydczak on Top of Washington Monument I. ca. 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Nearly fifty years earlier, the Washington National Monument Society chose Robert Mills‘ design to honor first American president and founding father George Washington. The privately funded organization laid the monument’s cornerstone on Independence Day, 1848, in Washington, D.C.

For twenty years, lack of funds and loss of support for the Washington National Monument Society left the obelisk incomplete at a height of about 156 feet. Finally, in 1876, President Ulysses Grant authorized the federal government to finish construction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over the project two years later.

Aerial View of Washington Monument… Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, September 20, 2006. Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive. Prints & Photographs Division

Day and night, spring through winter, the Washington Monument is a focal point of the National Mall and a center of celebrations including concerts and the annual Independence Day fireworks display. The observation deck affords spectacular panoramic views of the nation’s capital.

When construction was completed in 1884, the Washington Monument was the world’s tallest masonry structure. Today, the approximately 36,000-stacked blocks of granite and marble compose the world’s tallest freestanding masonry structure. In a city of monuments, locals refer to the obelisk as “The Monument.” By law—District of Columbia building code–it will remain the tallest structure in Washington, D.C., dominating the skyline and accenting Pierre-Charles L’Enfant’s plan for the city.

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American History

#OTD 1864: Salmon P. Chase Sworn into Supreme Court & Championed Temperance & Defended Fugitive Slaves

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.06: 2022:

#AceHistoryDesk – On December 6, 1864, Abraham Lincoln nominated Salmon P. Chase for chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; he was sworn in on December 15. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Chase studied law under Attorney General William Wirt.

Portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, officer of the United States government]. Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries, photographer. [Between 1860 and 1865]. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

He championed Sunday schools and temperance in the 1830s, and by the 1840s was an active member of the abolitionist movement. Chase defended fugitive slaves in Ohio and played a crucial role in creating the Free Soil Party, which opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories. With Free Soil support, Chase was elected to the Senate early in 1849.

Chief Justice Taft Dedicated Salmon P. Chase Memorial. NY: Underwood & Underwood, June 3, 1923. Prints & Photographs Division

Chase founded the Ohio Republican party and next served as the state’s first Republican governor from 1855 to 1859. In office, he vigorously opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and defended the rights of African Americans.

At the 1860 Republican convention, Chase permitted delegates pledged to support him to cast decisive votes for Abraham Lincoln. As a reward, in 1861–just two days after beginning his second term as senator, Chase left the Senate to serve as Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury.

Chase continued to support African Americans. He drafted the first two clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Signed into law in 1868, the amendment extended citizenship rights to all people born or naturalized in the United States.

In a letter to the Colored People’s Educational Monument Association, Chase asserted:

Our national experience has demonstrated that public order reposes most securely on the broad basis of universal suffrage. It has proved, also, that universal suffrage is the surest broad basis of universal guarantee and most powerful stimulus of individual, social, and political progress. May it not prove, moreover, in that work of re-organization which now engages the thoughts of all patriotic men, that universal suffrage is the best reconciler of the most comprehensive lenity with the most perfect public security and the most speedy and certain revival of general prosperity?

Letter from Hon. Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the United States. Wakefield, R.I., August 16, 1865. [To Williams Syphax and J.F. Cook, Committee]. In Celebration by the Colored People’s Educational Monument Association in Memory of Abraham Lincoln on the Fourth of July, 1865…. Washington, D.C.: McGill & Witherow, printers 1865. p. 9 African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection. Rare Book and Special Collections Divisionnone

During his time as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court—where he served until his death–Chase presided over the Senate’s impeachment trial and acquittal of President Andrew Johnson. Chase suffered a stroke and died on May 7, 1873. He was honored with a formal state funeral. Originally buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C., he was later reinterred in Spring Grove Cemetery in Ohio, the state that he served.

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American History

#OTD 1776: Phi Beta Kappa, America’s most prestigious undergraduate honor society & first Greek Letter Society was founded

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.05: 2022:

#AceHistoryDesk – Today in History – On December 5, 1776, Phi Beta Kappa, America’s most prestigious undergraduate honor society, was founded: Organized by five students at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, Phi Beta Kappa was the nation’s first Greek letter society.

William and Mary College [Williamsburg] Virginia. Prints & Photographs Division.

From 1776 to 1780, members met regularly at William and Mary to write, debate, and socialize. They planned the organization’s expansion and established the characteristics typical of American fraternities and sororities: an oath of secrecy, a code of laws, mottoes in Greek and Latin, a badge and a seal, a special handclasp, and an elaborate initiation ritual.

When the Revolutionary War forced William and Mary to close in 1780, newly formed chapters at Harvard and Yale directed Phi Beta Kappa’s growth and development. By the time the William and Mary chapter was revived in 1851, Phi Beta Kappa was represented at colleges throughout New England. By the end of the nineteenth century, the once secretive, exclusively male social group had dropped its oath of secrecy, opened its doors to women, and transformed itself into a national honor society dedicated to fostering and recognizing excellence in the liberal arts and sciences.

Williamsburg, Virginia. The capitol of the Virginia colony during the eighteenth century…. Colonial Williamsburg, Inc., April 1943. Farm Security Admnistration/Office of War Administration Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division
Chicago Illinois. Provident Hospital. Dr. S.J. Jackson, left and Dr. E.V. Williams, interns… Dr. Williams comes from Kansas and was a Phi Beta Kappa at Kansas University. Jack Delano, photographer, March 1942. Farm Security Admnistration/Office of War Administration Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1988 the organization changed its name to The Phi Beta Kappa Society, which today has over 270 chapters. Membership in the national organization is based on outstanding achievement in the liberal arts and sciences. Approximately ten percent of the nation’s institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters, with membership typically limited to students in the upper tenth of their graduating class. As of 2022, the society counts six of the nine current U.S. Supreme Court justices and former presidents George H.W. BushJimmy CarterBill Clinton, plus 14 others as members.

Phi Beta Kappa sponsors campus and community activities, fellowships, and service and literary awards. Since 1932, the society has published The American Scholar, a quarterly journal inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1837 Harvard lecture. The journal aspires to Emerson’s ideals of independent thinking, self-knowledge, and a commitment to world affairs and to books, history, and science.

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American History

#OTD 1783: Its ‘ Goodbye to George Washington ‘ he was carried across the ‘ Hudson River ‘ to the Fraunces Tavern

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.04: 2022:

#AceHistoryDesk – Today in History – On Thursday, December 4, 1783, General George Washington received the officers of the victorious Continental Army to say farewell in the Long Room of Fraunces Tavern, located on the corner of Pearl and Broad streets in lower Manhattan. Fraunces Tavern opened in 1762 as the “Queen’s Head Tavern” and was known as the “Sign of Queen Charlotte” for its portrait of the queen.

Washington’s Farewell to Officers/H.A. Odgen. Henry Alexander Ogden, artist; New York: The Tribune Association, cNov. 22, 1893. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division

Goodbye to General Washington: Under the proprietorship of Samuel Fraunces, a patriot of African and French extraction born in the French West Indies, the tavern was located across the Bowling Greenfrom the Whitehall Ferry landing. There, a barge waited to carry Washington across the Hudson River to New Jersey and then to Annapolis to resign his commission.

With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable. I cannot come to each of you, but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand.

General George Washington’s Farewell to his Officers. In Memoir of Col. Benjamin Tallmadge–Prepared by Himself, at the Request of His Children. New York: T. Holman, 1858. p. 63none

Fraunces Tavern, 1762, Tallmadge Memorial, New York, N.Y. [between 1900-1915]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

After British troops evacuated the city on November 25, 1783, Governor George Clinton threw a huge party at Fraunces Tavern in honor of General Washington. On December 1, a display of “fire-works and illuminations” was viewed from the Battery.

All the festivities were reported in the newspaper published by James Rivington, formerly “Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty.” With the departure of the British, The Royal Gazette became Rivington’s New-York Gazette, and Universal Advertiser. The December 6, 1783, issue of the newspaper described Washington’s farewell to his officers:

Last Thursday noon (December 4), the principal officers of the army in town assembled at Fraunces Tavern, to take a final leave of their illustrious, gracious, and much loved Comrade, General Washington. The passions of human nature were never more tenderly agitated, than in this interesting and distressful scene…[His] words produced extreme sensibility on both sides…

Rivington’s New-York Gazette, and Universal Advertiser, December 6, 1783.none

Major-General Henry Knox, Three-quarter-length Portrait. Gilbert Stuart, artist; photograph of painting at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston [between 1900-1912]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

According to Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge’s account, General Henry Knox stood closest to General Washington.

As the general concluded his address, the two turned to each other and “suffused in tears…embraced each other in silence.” Then, each of the officers followed suit, afterwards following Washington to the ferry landing where he departed, waving to them from his barge.

General Washington had already issued his Farewell Orders to the Continental Army. The outpouring of emotion and affection for Washington upon his retirement to Mount Vernon for Christmas imposed a heavy burden of reciprocal correspondence.

The general authored many letters of recommendation for former soldiers and patriots including a testimonial for Samuel Fraunces, who likely assisted the Continental Army by obtaining intelligence from British army officers frequenting his tavern while New York was under royal government. Fraunces later was employed by Washington as a steward in his presidential households in New York and Philadelphia.

Learn More

  • Read Washington’s correspondence. Search the George Washington Papers using the terms Fraunces, Tallmadge, or Knox to find a wealth of material, including documentation of Washington’s expenditures at the tavern. Search the collection using the term Washington farewellto locate more words from Washington at the time of his retirement. View the Timeline and the Essays in the collection for additional biographical information about Washington.
  • Search Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789 using the term army for material related to the Continental Army, including a documentrepealing “rations, subsistence, or allowances to officers over and above their pay.”
  • Search Today in History with the term George Washington to learn more about the first president. Features highlight the president’s birthday, his resignation as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and his death.

On December 4, 1619, thirty-eight colonists arrived from England and ventured ashore to settle the land grant along the James River that became known as the Berkeley Hundred (Berkeley Plantation). They observed a prayer of Thanksgiving for their safe passage to the New World.

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