Today, the Capitol Visitor Center Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the centennial celebration of the laying of the corner stone 124 years ago.
From the Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Capitol of the United States, edited by Duncan S. Walker, published in 1896.
On the morning of September 18, 1893, at 9 o’clock, the celebration began with the concert by the Centennial Chimes, the programme of which has been heretofore given, closing a little after 10 o’clock.
At 1 o’clock the afternoon programme for the bells began, lasting until nearly 2 o’clock, and being completed just as President CLEVELAND descended from his carriage to take his seat upon the grand stand.
Long before the hour announced for the parade the route was lined with spectators, and it is estimated that over one hundred and fifty thousand people saw the pageant pass in review, while in the Capitol Grounds and the adjacent streets there were assembled not less than one hundred thousand citizens.
The order of Chief Marshal Ordway for the formation and movement of the procession was adhered to with few departures.
At 12.45 o’clock Mr. Lawrence Gardner, Chairman of the General Committee, and Mr. Beriah Wilkins, Chairman of the Reception Committee, reported to President Cleveland that the parade was formed, and, escorted by Mr. Wilkins, the President entered the carriage assigned to him and rapidly drove to his place in the column.
General Albert Ordway, the Grand Marshal, then rode to the front of the column, and the parade marched down Fifteenth street to Pennsylvania avenue, thence to the Capitol, over the designated route.
Long before the appointed hour for the commencement of the exercises at the Capitol, the invited guests, who were received at the east door of the Rotunda by General Duncan S. Walker, Chairman of the Committee on Invitations, and his assistants, began to arrive and were shown to their seats upon the grand stand.
Besides the President and the orators of the Cabinet, the Justices of the Supreme Court, Chiefs of Bureaus in the Executive Departments, distinguished officers of the Army and Navy, members of the Diplomatic Corps, and other eminent persons, numbering two thousand, had been invited, and the stand was filled to its utmost capacity.
At a few minutes before 2 o’clock, the Senate, in a body, preceded by its President, Sergeant-at-Arms, Secretary, and Door keeper, passed through the Rotunda and entered the stand to the north, provided for the Congress.
Almost immediately afterwards the House of Representatives, preceded by its Speaker, Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms, and Door keeper, passed through the east door of the Rotunda and took the seats assigned them on the north stand.
In a few minutes the Joint Committee of Congress appeared upon the grand stand, and as the head of the column arrived, President Cleveland, who was to act as the Chairman of Ceremonies, the Right Reverend the Bishop of Maryland, and the orators of the day, escorted by members of the Citizens’ Committee, alighted from their carriages and took seats in the front of the central stand, welcomed by a great shout arising from one hundred thousand throats.
Already Professor Cloward had occupied the south stand with his fifteen hundred choristers.
The Marine Band, Professor Fanciulli, had been unavoidably detained for a few moments, due to the fact that they marched in the parade at the head of the Marine Corps.
In the meantime the chimes at the Congressional Library building, directly in front of the grounds, rang out a merry peal, while the crowd cheered again and again.
The Chairman of the Citizens’ Committee arose, and by his gestures commanded silence. The assemblage obeyed, and at 2.07 p. m. the Right Reverend William Paret, Bishop of Maryland, vested in his Episcopal robes, advanced to the front of the platform and made the invocation.
The Grand Centennial Chorus, accompanied by the United States Marine Band, then sang the “Te Deum.”
Mr. Lawrence Gardner, Chairman of the Citizens’ Committee, then spoke as follows:
One hundred years ago George Washington, the first President of the United States, standing on this hillside, then almost a wilderness, laid the corner stone of the permanent home of Congress, in whose majestic shadow we are now assembled.
Our written Constitution, the beacon light of every freeman, was then but an experiment, of which the creation of a national capital, under the exclusive control of the legislature, was the most novel feature.
Washington City was a name; the United States a federation of fifteen States, sparsely populated, bounded on the west by the Mississippi, and with no port upon the great Gulf. How conditions have changed since Washington last stood near this hallowed spot!
To-day the population of the country exceeds that of any English-speaking people; its area has been enlarged from 927,000 to 3,604,000 square miles; its boundaries are washed by the two great oceans.
To-day we more than realize the hope here expressed by Washington, before an assemblage small in numbers, but strong in that faith that overcometh all human obstacles.
As the country grew, so grew its Capitol, year by year, stone upon stone, until, on this its hundredth anniversary, it shows forth the most magnificent structure of any age, crowning the most beautiful city of the world.
Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives, as we now commemorate the laying of the corner stone of your legislative home, it is meet to give thanks for the preeminent part taken by Congress in the wonderful development of the system of government to which the United States owes its sure and rapid advancement.
To Congress the country is indebted for the fundamental acts which rounded out the frame of the organic law and gave life and vigor to all its parts.
A study of the history of legislative bodies in all lands and times will disclose none the superior of the American Congress, whether in intelligence, patriotism, or in purity of purpose.
Ladies and gentlemen, I will not detain you longer.
Under the direction of the Joint Committee of Congress I have now the pleasure of introducing to you as Chairman of Ceremonies the worthy successor of Washington, the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland.
The ceremonies continued with President Cleveland’s Address along with other notable speeches interspersed with music.
The day ceremonies at the Capitol then closed with the singing of “America,” the Centennial Chorus being accompanied by the Marine Band, and the multitude joining in the singing with great enthusiasm.
The volume of sound from the voices of the thousands present was such as had never been heard before on any similar occasion.
The night of September 18, 1893, was dark, but the arches of gas jets in front of the great white building threw a glare of light over the grand stands, gleaming upon the scarlet uniforms of the Marine Band and over the Centennial Chorus, which occupied the south stand.
At 6 o’clock the Centennial Chimes of thirteen bells rang out clearly and distinctly the evening programme heretofore given.
During the pealing of the chimes the crowd had begun to collect at the east front of the Capitol, and when 8 o’clock arrived, the hour for the opening of the grand out-of-door night concert, the stands were filled to their utmost capacity, while, in the language of the newspapers of the day —
The whole of the open space before the east front of the Capitol was filled with a closely packed mass of humanity that extended out over the grass plots back of the Greenough statue and north and south past the broad steps of the House and Senate wings.
A sight of the great crowd from the lower gallery of the dome conveyed some idea of what is meant by “a sea of heads.”
Two-thirds of the way across the plaza one could have walked on the heads of the crowd with no danger of falling through a chance opening.
Then came a great semicircle of closely packed carriages, and beyond that again, swarming over the grass plots, packed in tiers over the great ornamental urns, on the coping wall, and into East Capitol street, stretched the crowd.
It was shortly after 8 o’clock when the first strains of Professor Fanciulli’s grand march, “The National Capitol Centennial,” rendered with exquisite accuracy, floated upon the still night.
The great building, acting as a giant sounding-board, gave back the echoes, throwing the sound far out across the open space.
The Centennial Chorus, who were present to the full number of fifteen hundred, then sang “The Heavens Are Telling.”
The chorus was in fine voice and sang well together under the magnetic leadership of Professor Cloward, the clear notes of the sopranos being distinctly heard by persons on the upper tier of the dome of the Capitol, nearly three hundred feet distant.
The vast audience appreciated the grand music, and as the last notes of the chorus died away, broke out in prolonged cheers.
The Marine Band then rendered the overture from “Semiramide,” and were followed by the Centennial Chorus in “Home, Sweet Home,” accompanied by the Marine Band.
Then it was that the enthusiasm of the crowd was made manifest by cheer on cheer, which continued as the Marine Band played Fanciulli’s merry descriptive music, “A Trip to Manhattan Beach.”
The Centennial Chorus, accompanied by the Marine Band, and at times by the audience, then sang “Hail Columbia,” the enthusiastic multitude insisting upon an encore, and being rewarded by the Marine Band with “Dixie,” which was welcomed with alternate cheers and yells of delight.
The Marine Band then played Orth’s “In the Clock Store,” at the conclusion of which there was a mighty shout for “Hanford! Hanford!” As the actor, Mr. Charles B. Hanford, appeared on the projecting pier to the south of the main steps the applause was deafening.
Waving his hand to command silence, in a clear, deep voice, thrilling with emotion, Mr. Hanford began to recite “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Never had he recited to such a vast multitude, and never had he voiced or acted the stirring song so well.
Cheers answered the closing lines of each verse, and at the close of the poem, as he raised aloft and waved to and fro a silken flag — the Star-Spangled Banner — the cheering became a deafening roar.
Then the leader of the chorus waved his baton and the entire chorus and the thousands present in the crowd joined in singing the national air, while Mr. Hanford stood far above the heads of the mass, waving time with the silken flag.
The demonstration of popular enthusiasm was mighty — “the voice of the American people.”
The concert closed with “A Trip to Mars,” one of Fanciulli’s sprightly and entertaining compositions, which the Marine Baud rendered with fine effect.
The Capitol Visitor Center Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the Capitol, North View, in 1893.