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A Charming Look Back at the Opening of the 91-Year-Old Lincoln Memorial

On May 30, 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was formally dedicated. Fifty thousand people attended, including Supreme Court Chief Justice William Taft and President Warren G. Harding, who told the crowd "this memorial is less for Abraham Lincoln than for those of us today and for those who follow after."

Congressional efforts to build a memorial to the fallen president date back to 1867. Each legislative attempt failed until Illinois senator Shelby Cullom's bill for the incorporation of a new memorial commission passed in December 1910.

The final design was not without its critics. Some said architect Henry Bacon's faux Greek temple was too grandiose for the humble 16th president. Others claimed the site itself was too difficult to access and that the western end of the National Mall was "too swampy."

Construction started anyway in 1914 and the memorial was completed in time for its scheduled opening.

Below, courtesy the Library of Congress, pictures of the dedication event 91 years ago today:

"Lincoln Memorial dedication taken from the Washington Monument" Image from the Harris & Ewing Collection

 Image from the National Photo Company Collection

 Image from the National Photo Company Collection

Image from the Harris & Ewing Collection

"Dr. Moton, principal of the Tuscagee [sic] Inst. at the Lincoln Memorial dedication" From the National Photo Company Collection

Chief Justice Taft turning over the memorial and President Harding receiving it on behalf [of] the United States

Image from the National Photo Company Collection

Image from the National Photo Company Collection

Image from the National Photo Company Collection

Image from the National Photo Company Collection

"Robert Lincoln arrives at dedication of Lincoln Memorial" Image from the National Photo Company Collection

"Son of Abraham Lincoln, while attending the dedication exercises at the Lincoln Memorial" Image from the National Photo Company Collection

Image from the National Photo Company Collection

Keywords: Washington, DC, History

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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