Washington Monument cornerstone fragment, Washington, D.C., 1848


Broken from the cornerstone of the Washington Monument laid in 1848, this piece of marble belonged to Joseph Meredith Toner, a Washington, D.C., physician, philanthropist, and amateur historian. A collector of all things related to George Washington, Toner led the revival of the commission that oversaw the completion of the monument in 1884.

The 24,500-pound marble cornerstone had been laid on July 4, 1848, before an audience of 15,000 to 20,000 people. Begun by private subscription, the construction came to a halt for lack of funds in the mid-1850s. Not until the nation’s centennial in 1876 did Congress finish what in the intervening years had become a national embarrassment.

The restart began with the construction of a new supporting foundation that covered the cornerstone. Dr. Toner was present when workmen shored up the cornerstone, and he collected a piece of it that broke off in the process. Dr. Toner took great pride in showing it. “I am not a vandal,” he later volunteered to a reporter, who noted that Toner bundled his prize in a gauzy bandage “wrapped around the small chunk of marble as carefully as the swaddling clothes around the ghostly form of an Egyptian mummy.”

Transfer from the Joseph Meredith Toner manuscript collection, Library of Congress, 1961

Associated Place: United States: District of Columbia, National Mall, Washington Monument

See more items in: Political and Military History: Political History, General History Collection, Government, Politics, and Reform, Souvenir Nation


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Library of Congress

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PL.235052.01Catalog Number: 235052.01Accession Number: 235052

Object Name: cornerstone piece

Physical Description: marble (overall material)

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a3-6068-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_528644

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