(Photograph [c 1860] from the Brady-Handy Collection in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress; Annals text reproduced with permission of the Provincial Archives)
Sometimes when you’re scrolling through documents looking for one thing, you stumble upon the most wonderful gems. For instance, we had no idea that the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s and the students of St. Joseph’s Academy helped to build the Washington Monument! On September 8, 1836, the entry in the Provincial Annals notes that “In the morning a gentleman called with a subscription book for the Washington Monument to be erected in Washington City. No individual permitted to subscribe more than one dollar. Father Hickey subscribed one dollar. The institution twelve and the young ladies twenty for which they gave up their pocket money.” We wondered whether this was some scheme like selling the Brooklyn Bridge, but after doing a little Internet research we discovered that this donation project was legitimate, having been started in 1832 by the Washington National Monument Society. The money raised helped to begin the monument’s design and the cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848. After fits and starts in construction, the monument finally was opened on Feb. 21 (Washington’s Birthday) in 1885. Now, as the iconic obelisk undergoes repairs for damage caused in the 2011 earthquake, it only seems fitting to call attention to that original $33 donation (not an insignificant sum in its day) that helped to raise the monument in the first place.