Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Lincoln Memorial Was Dedicated

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On this day in 1922 the Lincoln Memorial - which had been designed by Henry Bacon after the Temple of Zeus at Olympia - was dedicated in Washington, DC; the sculptor on the project was Daniel Chester French, and the interior murals were executed by Jules Guerin. The Lincoln Memorial's position offers it sweeping views of both the National Mall and the Potomac River, and it shares the opposite view of the Reflecting Pool from the Washington Monument. Within are engraved the words of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's second inaugural address.

So much more than merely a monument to the 16th President of the United States, the Lincoln Memorial is also a powerful sigil; it's image appears - pointedly, in my opinion - on the reverse of America's only brown money (the penny*), and at times of crisis Americans** have gone to find solace there, especially during the Civil Rights Movement. Both Marian Anderson and Martin Luther King, Jr. at different times appeared with the soaring pillars and monumental statue of the Great Emancipator behind them to remind their country of the promise of freedom made by him, the same promise which cost Lincoln his life.

Ironically, the memorial to one of the greatest Presidents was dedicated during the Administration of one of the worst - Warren G. Harding - although thankfully he didn't attend the dedication ceremony, which was handled by former President and then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Howard Taft; in the crowd that day was the only surviving child of President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln.

*Not to mention its 21st Century equivalent, the $5 bill.
**Particularly those of the penny-coloured persuasion.

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Seumas Gagne said...

I'll never forget the first time I saw it. Awe and despair. "there's no one left like him."

michael sean morris said...

When I saw this there in the day's events, I couldn't help but publish it, as a gift to you. You spoke so emotionally about first seeing it that I could do no other.

Pop culturally it's important too: Marian Anderson's concert there alongside Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" first spoken there. But as great as these events were, none of them made its impact seem quite as powerful as your recollection.