Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30, 1922:

Dedication of the Lincoln Memorial

Construction of the Lincoln Memorial began in 1914, but its dedication had to wait until Memorial Day 1922. President Harding, who was not quite born on the day that Lincoln died, presided over the ceremony, with Chief Justice and former President Taft, and Robert Todd Lincoln, then 79, also as honored guests (the three are pictured, with Lincoln on the right). Former President Wilson was still alive at the time, but presumably too ill to attend.

About 50,000 people attended the dedication, including a handful of Union and Confederate veterans. The event also marked one of the first uses of new public address technology, with loudspeakers ringing the top of the monument. Other aspects of the event weren't as advanced. Robert Motem, president of the Tuskegee Institute and one of the main speakers, sat in a segregated seat away from the speakers platform.

Since then, the Lincoln Memorial has been the site of innumerable public events, taking an iconic place in the American imagination. In 1929, the building was added to the reverse of the $5 bill, and in 1959 -- the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth -- it was added to the reverse of the Lincoln cent. It was also, curiously, the only US government building in Washington hit by fire in World War II. Anti-aircraft guns had been placed atop nearby government buildings, and one went off accidentally. Its projectile hit the roof of the Memorial, but caused no permanent damage.


Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, where did you find the information on the anti aircraft gun and the Lincoln memorial?

Anonymous said...

It's Robert MOTON, not Motem

Anonymous said...

The anti aircraft reference can be found in Preservation Case Studies: The Interior Building, Its Architecture and Its Art
Authors: David W. Look, AIA and Carole L. Perrault
Published by the US Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, Preservation Assistance Division
Publication Year: 1986

“During WWII, the Army installed anti-aircraft batteries at strategic locations throughout Washington. One was placed on the [Dept. of] Interior Building roof garden because it had been reinforced for heavier loads. Unfortunately, on September 3, 1942, a soldier accidentally fired the weapon while cleaning it; and the shots hit the Lincoln Memorial. The word “Wisconsin” in the frieze of the [Lincoln M]emorial was damaged.”