The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 posts, one for each letter of the English alphabet, in April. Most of us choose to make these posts on a particular theme. My theme for 2023 is 1943 Washington D.C., the setting of the novel that I’m writing. Visit daily in April for a new post on my topic.
J is for Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. was dedicated on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson. War shortages meant that the bronze statue that we see today couldn’t be completed until 1947. Instead, people at the dedication ceremony saw a plaster cast.
The dedication ceremony began with a concert by the Marine Band. President Franklin Roosevelt was the featured speaker. Here is some of his speech as recorded by British Pathé and available on YouTube:
This little tidbit in the National Park Services article about the dedication made my jaw drop.
The cords that uncovered the statue were pulled by two-and-a-half year old Anthony Fathman of Pike County, Mo., the youngest of the more than three dozen descendants of Thomas Jefferson in attendance.
Pike County, Missouri, is where I grew up. It’s rural and dotted with tiny towns. I didn’t expect to encounter anyone from there at the Jefferson Memorial dedication in Washington D.C. in 1943.
In 1943, of course, it wasn’t general public knowledge that Thomas Jefferson had black descendants.
The Declaration of Independence that is currently on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives, was exhibited at the dedication ceremony, under heavy guard. This was a rare occasion, during the war, for the public to see the document. According to the NPS article, the Declaration and many other valuable documents were taken to a hidden location for safe keeping during the war. We now know that they were stored at Fort Knox in Kentucky, but that was a carefully kept war secret in 1943.
There were other celebrations in Washington, D.C. to honor Jefferson’s birthday.
As a librarian, I was particularly intrigued that the Library of Congress used the day to honor Jefferson’s role in establishing the library. The original collection was burned by the British in the War of 1812. To begin anew, Congress purchased Jefferson’s personal collection of books, more than twice the number of books that were lost in the war. In 1943, librarians organized an exhibit of some of the 6,487 books that Jefferson provided.
Dedication planned tuesday for jefferson memorial. (1943, Apr 08). The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/dedication-planned-tuesday-jefferson-memorial/docview/151619191/se-2