Washington DC History Resources

Matthew B. Gilmore

Washington Monument Dedication February 21, 1885

In view of the reopening of the Washington Monument today here’s a look back at the festivities which surrounded its dedication.


The Evening Star newspaper had extensive front page coverage of the ceremonies dedicating the Washington Monument that day (as an evening newspaper it could cover morning events the same day). It was cold, windy and clear and the dedication of the monument by President Chester Alan Arthur took place out-of-doors. Senator John Sherman (OH) spoke, as did Washington / Washington Monument Society eminence William Wilson Corcoran. Thence followed at brief Masonic ceremony, and the speech of the Engineer of the Monument, Col. T.L. (Thomas Lincoln) Casey.
Particiapants then processed to the Capitol, for more speeches.

President Arthur

Words familiar to us today were spoken: “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”


President Arthur concluded his address “…dedicated from this time forth to the immortal name and memory of George Washington.”


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W.W. Corcoran
, First Vice-President of Washington National Monument Society

The Engineer in charge:









Col. T.L. Casey


Reporting on the day’s events; in an era before photography in newspapers the long speeches and the long tortured history of the construction of the Monument itself were reported in masses of dense text:

Evening Star newspaper – Full Front page [click link for PDF]

Evening Star newspaper – Page 2 [click link for PDF]
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Washington Post coverage of the dedication [click link for PDF]
Earlier editions of the newpapers told of a fireworks display planned for that evening but none reported on it afterwards (Washington) National Republican., February 20, 1885


The Monument opened to the public on October 9, 1888

Some other background material:
History of the Washington National Monument and the Washington National Monument Society
Historic Structures report for the Washington Monument

Casey family papers at Historic New England…materials include engineering studies and construction photographs related to the Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, State, War, and Naval Building, and other structures in the District of Columbia. In 1876, as Chief of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, then Lieutenant-Colonel (later Brigadier General) Thomas Lincoln Casey was entrusted with the task of completing the structure, which he achieved on December 6, 1884.

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