February 12th 1914: Lincoln Memorial groundbreaking

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The statue of Lincoln in the Memorial today

On this day in 1914 100 years ago in Washington DC, work officially began on the Lincoln Memorial. There had been many attempts by Congress to build a monument to the 16th President, and in 1910 a bill passed the Senate. On February 12th 1914, the 105th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the groundbreaking ceremony took place. The next year on the same day the cornerstone was laid.

 

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The cornerstone laying ceremony, 1915

The memorial was completed in 1922, featuring a statue of Lincoln and inscriptions of his famous Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address.  The Memorial is now an iconic tribute to one of America’s greatest Presidents, and has been the site of numerous speeches, such as Martin Luther King’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. The choice of the Lincoln Memorial for the speeches at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is symbolic of Lincoln’s legacy in modern America. ‘The Great Emancipator’ remains a hero to many and a national icon. America has always been in the business of apotheosising their deceased Presidents, despite its origins as a decidedly republican state. DC is full of presidential memorials, with Jefferson’s and FDR’s standing boldly with Lincoln’s.

 

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The Lincoln Memorial under construction

 

“IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER”

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