Appendix (Washington Monument Data)

Appendix:

While the cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848, and the monument completed by the placement of the capstone on December 6, 1884, the intervening thirty-five years were very troubled.

During that period, political intrigue, Congressional withdrawal of funds due to even more political intrigue, and the intervention of the American Civil War of 1861-1865, all combined to cause the project to become stagnant for more than twenty-five years.

When the jobsite was reactivated and the monument once more began to rise, it was found that the exterior marble slabs above the line where the construction had been halted were different in color to the stone below the line.

The difference was a result of the later marble being supplied from quarries long after the original courses of stone. In addition to that were the effects of more than a quarter-century of rain, pollution, and wind-driven dust and dirt that affected the lower portion of the obelisk. (Today, in 2015, this manifests itself in the slightly lighter shade of the upper two-thirds of the monument.)

In 1879, with the blessing and financial support of Congress, the project, now put under the oversight of Lt. Col. Thomas Casey, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was renewed.

Casey rethought the foundation structure, augmenting it to permit the base to support the obelisk’s final weight which he estimated to be in excess of forty thousand tons. (There must have been a huge leeway allowed for error, since the monument has since been estimated to weigh in at more than ninety thousand tons.)

In addition, he then had to calculate where he would place one hundred and ninety-three odd-shaped stones donated by each state in the Union, and political, service, and other organizations. The colonel finally managed to locate each of these, building them into the interior walls of the monument.

The 6-pound cap placed on the capstone of the Washington monument was cast as a single piece of aluminum. This in itself seems to be a unique symbol, since the element aluminum was very costly. In 1884, it cost more per ounce than gold, silver, or even platinum. (Since that time, of course, the metal is no longer considered as precious, thanks to an extraction process first developed in 1886, that made the metal much more readily available, and the price dropped rapidly.)

The Washington Monument opened to the public on October 9, 1888. Following its dedication on February 21, 1885, in a six month period, over ten thousand people climbed the eight hundred and ninety-eight steps to the top.

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