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Sale 38 Lot 436

A most historic item, the original document attesting to the witnessing of the laying of the cornerstone of the first expansion of the Capitol of the United States, signed by PETER FORCE, the directors and committee of the newly established Smithsonian Institute, and the present and past Mayors of Washington, DC. This manuscript L.S. 1p., 4to., [July 4, 1851], is addressed to the Secretary of the Interior, Alexander H. Stuart. In part: "...We witnessed the ceremonies at the laying of the Corner Stone of the Extension of the Capitol, on the 4th instant. We regard the event as one of historical importance. The survey of our National Progress and noble sentiments, which it drew forth from the orator of the day, should be embodied in a more permanent form than the columns of a newspaper. We beg leave, therefore, respectfully to suggest the propriety of an official publication of the proceedings in our public libraries, for distribution among people, and for transmission to foreign lands, as a memorial of the position of America in the middle of the nineteenth century...". Signed by Force, W. LENOX, W.W. SEATON, and by officers of the Smithsonian: JOSEPH HENRY, C. C. JEWET, W. BAIRD and E. FOREMAN. Docketed on the integral leaf: "Speech of the Honorable D. Webster at the laying of the cornerstone of the extension of the Capitol on the 4th July 1851 and proceeding on that occasion, recommended to be published in pamphlet form by Peter Force, W.W. Seaton & others". Accompanied by five printed pamphlets (three different editions), each headed "Mr. Webster's Address at the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Addition to the Capitol, July 4, 1851", each printed by Gideon & Co., Printers. Fine condition. The admission to the Union of five states between 1845 and 1850 sent additional members to the already overcrowded and noisy House and Senate chambers. With the September 1850 passage of the package of laws known as the Compromise of 1850, Congress expressed its confidence in the nation's future by appropriating $100,000 to begin construction of new Capitol wings. These would be designed to accommodate larger legislative chambers and much-needed committee rooms. In June 1851, just three weeks before the cornerstone ceremony, President Millard Fillmore selected an extension plan prepared by Architect Thomas U. Walter. On an unusually mild summer's day, a large parade moved festively up Capitol Hill. Led by Fillmore, the procession included veterans of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and individuals who had witnessed the 1793 laying of the cornerstone for the original structure. Into a specially fashioned granite block, Architect Walter placed a glass jar containing current newspapers, documents, and forty dollars in coins. A Mason official sealed the cornerstone with the same trowel that President George Washington had used in 1793. Daniel Webster then delivered a deeply patriotic address that kept listeners spellbound for its two-hour duration. An artillery salute and fireworks on the mall concluded this most festive Independence Day. A momentous and important letter! Peter Force (1790-1868) was a politician, newspaper editor, archivist, and historian whose papers were the basis of the National Archives. Joseph Henry (1797-1878) was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. During his lifetime, he was considered one of the greatest American scientists since Benjamin Franklin. As the Smithsonian Institute had been organized only a year earlier, this request was one of its first official acts.
Estimate $ 10,000-15,000

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