New Book | Washington’s Monument
Constructed between 1848 and 1884—precisely when Mount Vernon was being preserved as a crucial part of America’s history—the obelisk at 555 feet high remains the tallest stone structure in the world. From Bloomsbury:
John Steele Gordon, Washington’s Monument and the Fascinating History of the Obelisk (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016), 224 pages, ISBN: 978 1620 406502, $27.
Conceived soon after the American Revolution ended, the great monument to George Washington was not finally completed until almost a century later; the great obelisk was finished in 1884, and remains the tallest stone structure in the world at 555 feet. The story behind its construction is a largely untold and intriguing piece of American history, which acclaimed historian John Steele Gordon relates with verve, connecting it to the colorful saga of the ancient obelisks of Egypt.
Nobody knows how many obelisks were crafted in ancient Egypt, or even exactly how they were created and erected since they are made out of hard granite and few known tools of the time were strong enough to work granite. Generally placed in pairs at the entrances to temples, they have in modern times been ingeniously transported around the world to Istanbul, Paris, London, New York, and many other locations. Their stories illuminate that of the Washington Monument, once again open to the public following earthquake damage, and offer a new appreciation for perhaps the most iconic memorial in the country.
John Steele Gordon is one of America’s leading historians, especially in the realm of business and financial history. He is the author of The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, Hamilton’s Blessing, A Thread Across the Ocean, An Empire of Wealth, and The Great Game. He has written for Forbes, Worth, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and his columns appear regularly in The Wall Street Journal. He lives in North Salem, New York.