October 9th, 1888 – The Washington Monument

Today-In-History

On October 9th, 1888, the Washington Monument was officially opened to the general public, but what if the monument is more than it appears?

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The Washington Monument is an obelisk on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate George Washington, once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first American president.

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The partially completed monument, photographed by Mathew Brady; circa 1860

Standing almost due east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial, the monument, made of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss, is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing 555 feet 71132 inches tall. It is the tallest monumental column in the world if all are measured above their pedestrian entrances, but two are taller when measured above ground, though they are neither all stone nor true obelisks.

Construction of the monument began in 1848, and was halted from 1854 to 1877 due to a lack of funds, a struggle for control over the Washington National Monument Society, and the intervention of the American Civil War. Although the stone structure was completed in 1884, internal ironwork, the knoll, and other finishing touches were not completed until 1888. A difference in shading of the marble, visible approximately 150 feet or 27% up, shows where construction was halted.

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P.H. McLaughlin setting the aluminum apex

Its original design was by Robert Mills, an architect of the 1840s, but he suspended his colonnade, proceeding only with his obelisk, whose flat top was altered to a pointed pyramidion in 1879. The cornerstone was laid on July 4th, 1848; the first stone at the 152-foot level was laid August 7th, 1880, the capstone was set on December 6th, 1884, and the completed monument was dedicated on February 21st, 1885. It officially opened October 9th, 1888. Upon completion, it became the world’s tallest structure, a title previously held by the Cologne Cathedral. The monument held this designation until 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris, France.

Interesting that a year after the Washington Monument being the world’s tallest structure that the Eiffel Tower should also be completed. Were the Americans and the French rivals? Or was this a joint effort to revive their alliance against the British by creating corresponding transmitter towers that allowed secret radio communications between the two nations? A high speed form of communication would especially be needed by the United States after Britain’s attempt to destroy the country by secretly instigating the US Civil War . . . but that’s another hidden history.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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