TODAY IN HISTORY: Dedication of Lincoln Memorial (May 30, 1922)
The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1922. In 1867, only two years after his assassination, the US Congress authorized the Lincoln Monument Association to build a memorial to Lincoln. However, it was not until 1901 that the site was chosen. Former President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft dedicated the monument upon its completion in a ceremony attended by Robert Todd Lincoln, the surviving child of Lincoln.
On May 30, 1922, an estimated 50,000 people gathered on the banks of the Potomac River for the dedication of the Memorial, a towering tribute to Abraham Lincoln. Decades in the making, the memorial’s classically inspired design alluded to two hallmarks of Lincoln’s presidency: the emancipation of the enslaved and his continued calls for unity in a time of unprecedented division.
Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s only surviving son, attended the Memorial Day ceremony, which featured speeches by three prominent men: Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft; President Warren G. Harding; and Robert Russa Moton, principal of the Tuskegee Institute, a historically Black school in Alabama.
The memorial was built between 1914 and 1922, and the theme of the building represents the Union. The 36 columns on the outside walls stand for the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. The names of the 48 states in the Union when the memorial was completed are carved along the outside of the memorial
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