Today, the George Washington Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin remembers when the capstone was added to the monument on December 6, 1884.
From The Washington Monument Illustrated, Complete Guide and History by Ina Capitola Emery, published in 1909:
The day after the mortal remains of George Washington were committed to the tomb at Mount Vernon, December 19, 1799, a committee of both Houses of Congress was appointed to deliberate over a proper method of honoring his memory, and on December 24 of the same year the following resolution was passed:
“That a marble monument be erected by the United States, at the City of Washington, and that the family of General Washington be requested to permit his body to be deposited under it, and that the monument be so designed as to commemorate the great events of his military and political life.”
President Adams wrote to Mrs. Washington asking her consent to the re-interment of her husband’s remains beneath a monument to be erected by the Government in his honor.
Mrs. Washington replied as follows:
“Taught by the great example I have so long had before me never to oppose my private wishes to the public will, I must consent to the request which Congress had the goodness to transmit to me; and in so doing I need not — I cannot — say what a sacrifice of individual feeling I make to a sense of public duty.”
In 1816 a committee was appointed to prepare a suitable receptacle to be placed in the foundations of the Capitol, and the brother of General Washington was then applied to for permission to remove the remains, but he emphatically refused, saying:
“It was in accordance with his expressed wish that he was committed to the family vault at Mount Vernon, and his will is a law to me that I dare not disobey.”
In 1832 the proposition was renewed to John Augustine Washington, but in emphatic terms he refused to allow the remains to be removed from their hallowed resting place.
The following year prominent citizens organized the Washington National Monument Society, with Chief Justice Marshall as President.
Among those appointed to receive and collect voluntary contributions for a suitable monument to George Washington in the city founded by, and named for him, were: Mrs. James Madison, Mrs. John Quincy Adams and Mrs. Alexander Hamilton.
Advertised bids for the design were restricted to “durability, simplicity, grandeur, harmoniously blended.”
The corner-stone of the Washington Monument was laid July 4, 1848, and the work steadily progressed until 1854, when the shaft reached the height of 150 feet; subsequently an addition of four feet was made, bringing the Monument to a height of 154 feet at a cost of $300,000.
The treasury of the Society was exhausted, and an appeal was made for congressional appropriations to complete the work.
At that time complications of a political nature arose in the management of the Society, and as a result the monument stood for years incomplete.
In 1878 the work was resumed as a result of congressional appropriations, and the mammoth column was completed December 6, 1884.
Cost of the Monument was $1,187,710.31. Of this amount $300,000 was raised by individual free will offerings, the remainder was by congressional appropriations.
The design of the Washington Monument was by Robert Mills.
Many of the stones were cut and polished at the stone plant of Matthew G. Emery, who was the last Mayor of the City of Washington and ex-officio Vice-President of the Washington National Monument Society.
The founder of the Society was George Watterston. The orator at the dedication of the Monument was Hon. Robert C. Winthrop.
The Washington Monument is a colossal obelisk of mammoth proportion towering majestically above the National Capital, which is alike commemorative of the “Father of his Country.”
It stands today the loftiest memorial elevation in the world, and is the most imposing and costly monument ever erected to man.
It is a memorial to the Hero, the Soldier, the Patriot, the Statesman, and a perpetual tribute of a grateful people to that great and overshadowing figure in the nation’s history — George Washington.
The monument is a massive shaft of pure white marble and granite, capped by an aluminum pyramid which makes it visible by night as well as by day.
The tapering design of graceful magnificent proportions reaches skyward over five hundred and fifty-five feet, and looks down upon the city founded by, and named for, Washington.
A more beautiful site could not be selected. The terrace, 17 feet high, on which the monument stands is surrounded by 41 acres.
The square was designated on L’Enfant’s plan of the city of Washington as the site for the proposed equestrian monument to Washington, which was ordered by the Continental Congress in 1783 and selected by Washington himself for a monument to the American Revolution.
The topmost stone of the pyramidion was placed in position December 6, 1884. It weighs 3,300 pounds.
From the base to the top is 5 feet 2.5 inches. Its height on the outer face is 4 feet 5.75 inches, with a 7-inch shoulder to bind on each side, extending 10.5 inches below.
The base is 3 feet and a fraction square and 5 inches in diameter at the top, where the aluminum top fits in. The latter is 9 inches in height and 4.5 inches at the base, with a weight of 100 ounces.
This forms the top stone or cap.
The keystone that binds the interior ribs of stone supporting the marble facing of the pyramidal cap of the monument weighs nearly 5 tons.
It is 4 feet 6 inches high and 3 feet 6 inches square at the top.
Inscription on the Four Faces of the Aluminum Point Crowning the Monument.
Joint Commission at setting of Cap Stone: Chester A. Arthur. W. W. Corcoran, Chairman; M. E. Bell, Edward Clark, John Newton. Act of August 2nd, 1876.
Corner Stone Laid on Bed of Foundation July 4th, 1848. First Stone at Height of 152 Feet, Laid August 7th, 1880. Cap Stone Set December 6th, 1884.
Chief Engineer and Architect, Thos. Lincoln Casey, Colonel Corps of Engineers. Assistants, George W. Davis, Captain 14th Infantry; Bernard R. Green, Civil Engineer; Master Mechanic, P. H. McLaughlin.
The George Washington Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of the top of the monument, December 6, 1884.