Today in 1884 at Washington, D.C. an aluminum capstone was placed on top of the Washington Monument, completing construction that started July 4, 1848 with a 24,500 pound cornerstone of white marble. Construction was halted at various times for a lack of funding and the Civil War. In 1876, the country’s centennial, President Grant authorized funds to complete the project.
The monument contains 36,000 blocks of marble and granite and stands 555 feet, at the time, the tallest structure in the world. The monument is administered by the National Park Service and is visited by more than 880,000 people each year.
The Washington Monument is currently closed due to damage from the 2011 earthquake. Extensive repairs are underway and the projected reopening date is 2014.
Today in 1865 Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment, which officially ended slavery. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
In September 1862, Lincoln proclaimed the Emancipation Proclamation, which was mostly symbolic. He felt an amendment was necessary. The Senate Judiciary Committee borrowed language from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which banned slavery north of the Ohio River.
Today in 1976 at Alvord Desert, Oregon, stunt woman Kitty O’Neil set the land speed record for a female with an average speed of 510.72 mph. [Rules for land speed records require the vehicle make two passes over a measured course, one up and one back. The two speeds are averaged.] Observers reported Kitty reached a speed of 618 mph on her first pass; she ran out of fuel and had to coast.
Kitty’s contract allowed for her to only break the female driver’s record. She didn’t get another chance to break the then-current record of 638.388 mph. One reporter was told that it would be “degrading” for a woman to hold the land speed record.
O’Neil retired in 1982. She held 22 speed records on land and water.