From Mama Snail:
“I’m leaving Boston–a beautiful city! Got a walking tour of Beacon Hill last night from the president of the Thoreau Society. Got to see all the Transcendentalist hot spots. Very cool. Looks just like this. Seems that Little Brown owned half of Beacon Hill at one point–seat of publishing in America in the 19th c., establishing literary America with writers like Hawthorne, Longfellow, Alcott, et al.”
“This is the Steeple of Independence Hall, one of the most famous buildings in America. Philadelphia also has the Liberty Bell + Betsy Ross’s house (the woman who sewed the first flag.) It is full of beautiful tiny houses from the very earliest days of America.”
Lincoln and Washington Memorials“Leaving DC today, had the best time here…great museums–all free + 7 days a week…best of all–They have an International Spy Museum! Spent half of yesterday there–heaven. Partial sun, got drenched on Friday at The Lincoln Memorial…Went to the National Archives yesterday + saw The Bill Of Rights, The Declaration of Independence + The Constitution. All those forgotten documents. Testimony of John Lewis. Fantastic!”
Washington Monument with cherry trees Union StationThe visionary Maya Lin was a 21 year-old architecture student when she submitted her deeply evocative design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Lin has since become renowned for both her monumental architecture and her sculpture and landscape art. I highly recommend pausing at the Civil Rights Memorial she designed if you’re in Montgomery, Alabama.
Tomb of the Unknowns/Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
In this section of Arlington, there are tombs dedicated to unidentified soldiers killed in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. In each tomb lies one unidentified soldier from the corresponding war. There was also a Vietnam tomb, but in 1994, the soldier in it was identified by a POW/MIA activist, and the soldier’s body was returned to his family. The former Vietnam Tomb of the Unknown is now dedicated, as the inscription says, to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.”
According to the United States Army website, one of the highest honors of the army is to serve as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Fewer than 20 percent of all volunteers are accepted for training, and only a fraction of those pass. This attrition rate has made the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guard Identification Badge the second least-awarded decoration of the United States military (the first being the Astronaut Badge). As someone who is not a fan of the military, I appreciate that it is this non-violent, non-intrusive position–reflecting upon the grim truth of war–that is so revered. Jefferson Memorial
Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), a gift from the people of France. Bartholdi portrayed the Roman goddess of freedom, Libertas, with a torch–a beacon to immigrants–and a tabula ansanta (book of the law) that says July 4, 1776, the date of the United State’s independence. A broken chain lies at her feet. The copper statue is 151’1″, and the entire monument–ground to torch–is 305’1″.
Funnily, this massive sculpture was built in France and shipped to the U.S. piece by piece as the parts were completed. The parts went on display in various places–the torch-bearing arm at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 and at Madison Square Garden–to raise money for the rest to be built.
Liberty was fully assembled on her pedestal at last in 1886. The morning of the dedication ceremony, presided over by President Grover Cleveland, a parade of bands from all over the country marched from Madison Square down Fifth Avenue and Broadway to Battery Park and out to the harbor. As the parade passed the New York Stock Exchange, traders threw ticker tape out the window in celebration. It was the city’s first ticker-tape parade!
(My pronunciation of “liberty” as a wee snail–now a family joke)on the back:
The statue commemorating Terry’s Texas Rangers is not exactly aligned with the liberal People’s Republic of Austin, but Austinites can laugh at the story: Formally called the 8th Texas Cavalry (1861-1865), 1,000 volunteers formed ten companies under wealthy sugar planter Colonel Benjamin Franklin Terry (an ironic name considering his political stance), joining in the Civil War in the name of the Confederacy. Terry was killed in their first skirmish. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lubbock, in a hospital with typhoid, was then promoted to Colonel. He died the next day.
The South’s struggle for modern identity is summed up in this postcard. The region has a lot of history and a passion for preservation, but that history poses a great difficulty in terms of tourism because it generally speaks very negatively of the region, or turns a blind eye. The postcard’s caption tries to be neutral– ironically calling this “monument to the Confederacy” a “tribute to American history” as well–and mostly focuses on Stone Mountain’s physical attributes, but it’s all undone at the end simply with the word “heroes.” It ultimately kisses up to those still clinging to some romanticized notion of the Confederacy.
The bas-relief was conceived by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1910′s, and in 1915, the Ku Klux Klan re-formed at Stone Mountain with a cross-burning ceremony. The Klan continued to meet there until the state purchased the mountain in 1958. It is no wonder, therefore, that Stone Mountain was a frightening symbol of Jim Crow by the time Martin Luther King Jr. mentioned it in his speech at the March on Washington:
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
From one of Grandma Snail’s WWII snail-mail sweethearts. To delve into those letters and photographs check out this post and the one after it. Happy Independence Day! Aloha till next time.