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Washington Monument papers

Identifier: MS 0876


This collection includes correspondence, financial records, minute books, visitors' books, drawings, contracts, and maps related to the design and construction of the George Washington Monument in Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, Maryland.


  • 1810-1843


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Historical Note

In 1810 a petition extolling the virtues of George Washington and his services to the country was presented to the Maryland State Legislature with the request that a memorial be erected to his memory. The outcome of this appeal was the passage of an Act on 6 January 1810, authorizing the raising of a sum of money by lottery, not to exceed $100,000, for the construction of a monument.

The Act also created a Board of Managers which was given the authority to oversee the lottery and to direct the building of the monument. John Comegys, the author of the original petition to the Legislature, was elected President of the Board at its second meeting, February 1810. A Lottery Committee was appointed and for three years the Board's activities and attentions were directed to supervising the Monument Lotteries.

In 1813 sufficient funds were collected for the Board to offer a prize of $500 for the best plan for the monument. In May 1814 Robert Mills was awarded the prize and appointed architect. A Building Committee was created tosupervise the work of construction.

In 1814 James Buchanan succeeded Comegys as President of the Board after the latter's death in July of that year. On 4 July 1815 the cornerstone of the monument was laid at a site donated by John Eager Howard after the original site (on North Calvert Street) had been rejected in fear that the column might prove dangerous to surrounding property.

The building of the monument continued from 1815 to 1820 when the capital was placed inpposition and the pedestal was mounted to receive the statue. It was not however until 1827 that the Board advertised a competition for a sculpture to be placed on top of the column. The model submitted by Enrico Causici was chosen and in November 1829 his completed statue of George Washington was raised to the top of the column.

In the meantime, Robert Gilmor, Jr. became President of the Board of Managers following the resignation of Buchanan in 1819 and continued to serve in this capacity until the Board was dissolved. The Board of Managers was continually plagued by financial difficulties as lottery receipts were not sufficient to cover construction costs. The sixth, and last, class of the Monument Lottery was held in 1824. After that date, the expenses were met from funds made over to the Board from the proceeds of the State Lottery. By 1843 expenses for the Monument had totalled over $200,000.


4.42 Linear Feet (5 boxes (1 full Hollinger box and 4 flat boxes))

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The collection includes correspondence, financial records, minute books, visitors' books, drawings, contracts, maps.

The collection is especially rich in correspondence. There are numerous folders of letters from Robert Mills, which span the years 1814 (when Mills submitted his winning plan for the Monument) to 1839 when the work was virtually complete. Mills’ letters, written frequently and at great length, form an invaluable corpus of information regarding the progress of work on the Monument (including changes in its design necessitated by financial stringencies) as well as providing an autobiographical account of Mills’ other architectural commissions and his own impecunious state.

From 1825 the Board of Managers submitted annual reports to the Treasurer of the Western Shore in which the Board summarized the progress of work, presented the accounts and estimated the amount of work and money required for the following year. The collection includes eight folders of correspondence and reports exchanged between the Board and the Western Shore Treasury during the years 1825-1843.

The numerous invoices, receipts, accounts, bills etc. in Box 4 amply document the expenses incurred during the construction of the Monument.

Mills’ original drawings of his plan for the Monument may be found in Box 3 and his `studies for the surmounting of the Washington Monument Column' with numerous sketches of the inscriptions and proposed trophies are inserted in the volume `Rejected Designs of the Washington Monument.' located in 3 oversize folders.

Principal correspondents include Robert Mills, Robert Gilmor, Jr., Enrico Causici, William Steuart, David Winchester and George MacKubin.

Guide to the Washington Monument papers
Under Revision
Harriot Weiskittel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-09-17: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States