December 29, 2017

Capital City

by Rosemary

One of the first things we did in Washington, DC was to visit the Copyright Office, where we had fun requesting their copy of Steve's book.

The Copyright Office was established to administer and support the nation's copyright laws, and is the place where copies of registered creative works are stored. It occupies three huge buildings on Capitol Hill. The oldest is the Thomas Jefferson Building, a Beaux-Arts style structure with decorative details reminiscent of historic Rome.

The Neptune Fountain at the Jefferson Building

The dominant building on Capitol Hill is, of course, the Capitol.

Like many other Neoclassical buildings here (built at a time when nobody thought about the needs of the disabled and elderly), its entrances are approached by impressive staircases. Because of today's security concerns, these stairways are no longer used by the public. The visitors' entrance is on the other side, at a lower level far from the grand doorways.

Here we are on the other side, in front of another forbidden staircase.

Each state can donate two statues of notable citizens to be displayed in the Capitol. Many of these are in the National Statuary Hall, which is accessible to tour groups. Others are distributed throughout the building, including the Visitor Center, the Crypt, and assorted hallways. Most of the statues are of the expected war heroes and politicians, but there are also humanitarians, scientists, and creators.

Thomas Edison, Ohio

Ethan Allen, Vermont

Helen Keller, Alabama

John Gorrie, Florida

Philo Farnsworth, Utah

Norman Borlaug, Iowa

The Statuary Hall was once the meeting place of the House of Representatives. A plaque on the floor marks the location of John Quincy Adams's desk.

A highlight of the tour is the huge Rotunda, decorated with large historical paintings, frescoes, relief sculptures, statues, and architectural details.

In the eye of the dome, 180 feet above the floor, is the fresco "Apotheosis of Washington" painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865. Like many Renaissance works seen in European churches and palaces, this painting depicts a revered person in Heaven, surrounded by historical or allegorical figures. Here, George Washington, dressed as a Roman emperor, is attended by figures representing the original thirteen states, as well as Liberty, Fame, War, Science, Marine, Commerce, Mechanics and Agriculture.

This is not the only portrayal of Washington as godlike. Horatio Greenaugh's 1841 "Enthroned Washington," which was modeled after a statue of Zeus, triggered controversy, largely for depicting its subject only partially clothed. It now occupies a place of honor at the National Museum of American History.

Among the many artworks on the Rotunda's curved walls are a sandstone carving by Enrico Causici, depicting Native Americans offering a snack to the Pilgrims, and a John Trumbull painting representing Washington's acceptance of General Burgoyne's surrender.

Across the way from the Capitol is a masterpiece of stairs and columns, the Supreme Court building. We amused ourselves by standing outside and staging a fake disagreement so we could say we had argued before the Supreme Court.

The West Pediment, created by artist Robert I. Aitken, is carved with an allegorical grouping, showing Liberty Enthroned, surrounded by figures representing Order, Authority, Council, and Research. Several of the figures are portraits of people who were influential in the creation of the building, including Aitken. The inscription is "Equal Justice Under Law".

Inside, the two self-supporting, elliptical spiral staircases are made of marble, 136 steps each, rising from the basement to the third floor. (There is a ground floor and then a first floor, so the third might be considered the fourth.)

Looking up from the ground floor

Even the elevator doors are fancy.

There are many exhibits about the history of the court, the construction of the building, legal education in America, various legal issues, and the individual justices. There are busts or portraits of all the Chief Justices. The bust of John Jay, the first Chief Justice, is draped much like a Roman emperor.

More of the things we saw in the D.C. area will be covered in the next post.

Note: We were here during the first half of November.

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December 25, 2017

Happy Holidays!

from Steve and Rosemary

On day 206 of our journey, we wish our family, friends, clients, and colleagues the happiest of holidays and best wishes for the New Year.


December 15, 2017


by Steve W

After leaving Philadelphia, we continued our history lesson in Gettysburg, site of one of the most famous battles of the Civil War.

Fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, it was the bloodiest battle of the war, with around 85,000 Union soldiers and 75,000 Confederate soldiers taking part and over 46,000 casualties. The town of Gettysburg was the site of this battle because of the 10 roads that led into town, making it accessible from many directions. Any student of American history knows that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his most famous speech on the site of the battlefield on November 13 of that same year.

She's a big fan!

Just a couple of guys who look better with beards.
Today, the town itself is full of commemorative markers and businesses that celebrate the battle, won by the Union Army. On our first night in town, we went to a local restaurant where a man dressed like General Ulysses S. Grant was sitting outside. The General soon came into the restaurant with another couple and regaled them with tales of the war, speaking in the first person and never breaking character. Pretty impressive!

Our first stop the next morning was the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Inside, we viewed the film "A New Birth of Freedom", narrated by Morgan Freeman, and the Gettysburg Cyclorama, a 360 degree painting of the battlefield by French artist Paul Philippoteaus, with narration, lighting and sound effects. The images are very lifelike and the total effect is unique.

We then toured the museum, a well curated collection of items left on the battlefield as well as short movies about each day of the battle, with pictures and correspondence from the participants. It took a couple of hours to get through, but was well worth the time.

Next were the battlefields themselves and the Gettysburg Soldiers' National Cemetery. Here are the remains of 3,555 Union soldiers who died on the battlefields. There are stones organized by State, as well as some markers for unknown soldiers.

Based on records from 1865, these markers represent the following casualties:

  1. Unknown -- 143 soldiers
  2. Illinois -- 6 soldiers
  3. West Virginia -- 11 soldiers
  4. Delaware -- 15 soldiers
  5. Rhode Island -- 12 soldiers
  6. New Hampshire -- 49 soldiers
  7. Vermont -- 61 soldiers
  8. New Jersey -- 78 soldiers
  9. Wisconsin -- 73 soldiers
  10. Connecticut -- 22 soldiers
  11. Minnesota -- 52 soldiers
  12. Maryland -- 22 soldiers
  13. US Regulars -- 138 soldiers
  14. Unknown -- 411 soldiers
  15. Maine -- 104 soldiers
  16. Michigan -- 171 soldiers
  17. New York -- 866 soldiers
  18. Pennsylvania -- 526 soldiers
  19. Massachusetts -- 159 soldiers
  20. Ohio -- 131 soldiers
  21. Indiana -- 80 soldiers
  22. Unknown -- 425 soldiers

For the Confederate soldiers who died, their bodies lay in scattered field burials and hospital sites until ladies' memorial societies raised funds to have their bodies relocated to their native states starting in the 1870's.

Also inside the cemetery is a monument on the location where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.

Here is a photo taken by acclaimed Civil War Photographer Mathew Brady showing Lincoln delivering the speech.

All throughout the battlefields, which cover miles of terrain, are memorials to the various state military units who fought at Gettysburg, including units from the Confederacy. Many of these memorials list a chronology of the units' involvement in the battle and how many soldiers fought, died, were wounded or just missing.

Just one of hundreds of similar memorials

In addition, there are statues commemorating some of the generals who led their troops here and the men they led. See the description of who they represent below.

Confederate hero or traitor to the Union?

One of the most impressive monuments was erected by the State of Pennsylvania, listing the names of key generals and every Pennsylvanian who fought in the war.

Like our previous visit to the site of Little Big Horn, this was a sobering experience. Some say that the Civil War ended in 1865, but others maintain that, in some respects, it still going on.

December 11, 2017


by Rosemary

In some parts of South Philly, it is customary to park on the median strip. It isn't legal, but the police don't issue tickets. It can be confusing and possibly a bit dangerous. Residents argue that parking in the middle is a necessity, because there just aren't enough places to park in this city (and they have a point). Recently, an activist group sued the city in an attempt to force the police to ticket and tow these illegally parked cars, but the judge decided in the city's favor, meaning the scofflaws can stay parked.

Another oddly parked vehicle is the S.S. United States, once a luxury ocean liner, now a rotting hulk at Pier 84. Since being withdrawn from service in 1969, this ship has been bought and sold many times. No one seems to know what to do with it. There have been a number of proposals to repurpose it in various ways, including turning it into a cruise ship, a casino, a museum, or an office building, but none of these ideas have proved practical. The costs of keeping it in place (estimated at $60,000 a month) are paid for by donations to a conservancy group. When the money runs out the ship may be sold for scrap metal, or perhaps converted into an artificial reef.

In another part of the city is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose stone steps are known as the "Rocky Steps" for their role as the location of Sylvester Stallone's triumphant run in the 1976 film Rocky. We saw plenty of tourists, and a few serious runners, running ‑‑ or trying to run ‑‑ up and down these steps. Nearby is a larger-than-life Rocky statue where tourists love to pose.

This statue of Joan of Arc is eye-catching, but seems like a misfit, both in color and content, in a city filled with likenesses of local heroes. In 1890, members of the French community installed this statue by Emmanuel Frémiet, to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. The bronze statue was gilded in 1960. Joan didn't actually participate in the French Revolution, having died more than 300 years earlier, during the Hundred Years War.

Across the street from the museum is a huge, elaborate monument to George Washington, surrounded by wild animals, allegorical figures, and historical characters.

Washington and other patriots are honored throughout the city. In Washington Square, George stands over the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. The square was once a burial ground for soldiers and citizens during the Revolution and later for the victims of yellow fever epidemics. It was also used as a potter's field.

The Founding Father who is remembered most prominently is Philadelphia's most famous citizen, once the most famous American in the world, Benjamin Franklin. Some of his statues and monuments have been in place for a long time, and more continue to be created. This 2017 bronze statue by James West, in front of the Masonic Temple near City Hall, depicts Masonic brothers Washington and Franklin.

Nearby is 1981's "Benjamin Franklin, Craftsman" by Joe Brown, depicting the young Franklin working at his printing press.

James Peniston's 2007 bust of Franklin, who founded America's volunteer fire departments, stands outside the Engine 8 fire station.

Neon, of course, is timeless.

Although the Franklin family home is no longer standing, its former location is now known as Franklin Court and contains steel frame outlines of the house and Franklin's grandson's print shop. Portions of the house's foundation and basement remain and can be seen through viewing ports. In the courtyard is the entrance to a small U.S. Post Office (the only one that does not fly the U.S. flag, since it has a 1775 theme) where items are hand stamped with Benjamin Franklin's personal postmark. We mailed a postcard here, then exited Franklin Court to Market Street through the original brick passageway once used by Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin died in his house and was buried next to his wife in the historic Christ Church Burial Ground. Franklin is popularly but incorrectly credited with the saying "A penny saved is a penny earned", and thousands of visitors pay homage to him by tossing pennies onto the gravestone. Unfortunately, this practice has damaged the marble, which has also suffered a big crack as the result of time and weather. Earlier this year the crack was filled and sealed, and the base of the stone reset, at a cost of $80,000. People still toss pennies (we did not participate).

Just a few blocks away from Christ Church is Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. We didn't get up early enough in the morning to get tickets to this very popular destination, but we enjoyed walking around the area and seeing other historic sites and attractions, including the Liberty Bell.

Our walk took us through Elfreth's Alley, a historic cobblestone street referred to as "our nation's oldest residential street," with houses built between 1720 and 1830. Unlike the mansions typically preserved and included in architectural tours, these were working-class homes. There is a museum here, but most of the houses are still private residences that look much as they would have 100-200 years ago.

For interesting architecture in a completely different style, there is nothing like a visit to City Hall. Completed in 1901, it was a record-setting structure. Although never the world's tallest building, at the time of its completion it was the tallest habitable building. It was the tallest building in Pennsylvania until 1932, and the tallest in Philadelphia until 1986. It still has the tallest statue atop a building in the world, Alexander Milne Calder's 37-foot statue of William Penn. It is the largest municipal building in the U.S., and the world's tallest load-bearing masonry structure (it has no steel or iron framing).

When it opened, it was widely criticized for its outdated architectural style and opulent decorations.

Outside the building there are, of course, many statues and memorials.

Major General John Fulton Reynolds, killed at the battle of Gettyburg.

John Wanamaker is best-known as the founder of Wanamaker's department stores, where he introduced the idea of accepting returns. The Wanamaker building is across the street from City Hall, and is now a Macy's store.

Octavius Valentine Catto, educator and civil rights activist.

Someone we all know and love.

Across the street is a sculpture entitled "Government of the People,"
by Jacques Lipchitz

High atop the tower, William Penn surveys the city.

From the observation deck, it's possible to get a closer look,
but not necessarily a better look.

The observation deck provides great views of the city, including the Benjamin Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River.

Philadelphia is a big city with a rich history, and there is much more we could have seen, including, no doubt, several hundred more statues, plaques, parks, buildings, and assorted attractions named after Ben Franklin. But it was time to move on to another phase of U.S. history.