A long-time federal employee who has written many articles for the National Archives, headstone Washington many of which have been about history.
An article I was working on a while back said that the pope gave a gifted stone to the Washington Monument in 1854. It was put on the wall of the indoor stairs. Though it wasn’t done yet, other stones had already been added. The first was Alabama’s in 1849, and the rest came after that.
In the end, it was a good idea to go to the National Archives again and again, as it turned out. Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital, which is called Record Group 42, came next. This group has recorded how the Washington Monument was built. People gave stones to the monuments on some of the RG 42 Monuments pages.
A list of “Entries,” or boxes of material, was found in RG 42. They covered most of the Monument’s history. Many useful old documents were found in the Entries. These documents included advertisements and telegrams, as well as yellowed newspaper clippings, and letters to and from Monument staff.
Gift stone proposals in RG 42 were found to describe stones that aren’t in the Washington Monument today. At least 28 of them were for stones that never made it to the Washington Monument. Entry 439 set a new record. It was 14 at the time. Some other entries that were like this one were 97. These other entries were 430, 442, 450, 493, and 442.
Yes, there could be more. People who want to learn more about history should go to the U.S. Library of Congress, where there is a section called Periodicals. Repeated visits led to even more clues about lost stones. They had old newspapers on microfilm at the library. This is a better way to say it: If you type in your ancestor’s name as “Washington Monument,” a lot of information comes up. I used computer search engines, like ProQuest and Ancestry.com, to find a lot of information about some of them.
One newspaper, the Grand Rapid Herald in Michigan, wrote about 14 or 15 stones “rotting away” in a storeroom below the monument in November of 1899.
Other stones may have been lost during the trip. There were some stones from Nevada and California that were full of gold and silver ore. Was it hard for them to get to Washington because they were so valuable?
It turns out that the Smithsonian Institution no longer has some of the stones that were given to them. When they looked at their records, they found that the Smithsonian had thrown them out sometime before 1911.
Still more stones were lost for no reason. Some people may not have made it past the talking stage. Also, it’s likely that not every stone proposal made it into the local newspaper in question. This means that some lost stones aren’t even recorded at all.
People also had to think about the vandals and the people who wanted to take things home with them. They were kept in a long and narrow wooden shed outside called “Lapidarium.” When a stone was brought to the monument, they were kept in this long, narrow shed. Some of its stones were added to the Monument at the same time, but not all of them.
Also, during the 25-year break in construction, the stones sat there, ready to be taken by anyone. A pile of 13 bricks from Washington’s birthplace was mentioned in one place I looked. If you were going to the Lapidarium, it would be so easy for you to slip one into your coat pocket! It doesn’t have any of these bricks today.
So far, there are an estimated 196 stones that have been lost from the Washington Monument (the 13 bricks are counted as one item). There are 193 stones that were given to the monument. The word “estimated” is the most important one in this sentence. A few of the sources were vague or short, and you have to be careful not to repeat yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether to add a specific example to the lost list, and the ones that aren’t sure are usually left out.
They both have a lot of stones, but they also have a lot of different kinds. People who gave money to the Masons, the International Order of Odd Fellows, private businesses, labor unions, schools and universities, and even patent medicine companies didn’t make the cut, but they were still very important to the project.
A lot of the stones that were there came from other countries. People from all over the world have given stones to the monument today. They come from places like China and Japan, as well as Greece twice. There were two lost stones from France, and two from Egypt.
At home, a lot of people seem to like George Washington and the American republic idea.
If you want to learn more about the Washington Monument, click here. John Lockwood wrote a 2016 Prologue article called “The Men and Women Who Built the Washington Monument.” You can read it here. more