Pennsylvania Avenue

On May 23, 1865, the Army of the Potomac celebrated the end of the Civil War by parading down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Only weeks before, mourners watched Abraham Lincoln’s funeral cortege travel the same thoroughfare. With many buildings still dressed in black crepe, this joyous procession could not help but remind spectators of that unhappy occasion.

When Johnny comes Marching Home Again, Hurrah, hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then, Hurrah, hurrah!
The men will cheer, the boys will shout, The ladies, they will all turn out,
And we’ll all feel gay, When Johnny comes marching home

When Johnny Comes Marching Home; Soldier’s Return March External,” words and music by Louis Lambert (pseudonym of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore), 1863. Historic American Sheet Music, 1850 to 1920 External

…Infantry Unit with Fixed Bayonets Followed by Ambulances Passing on Pennsylvania Avenue, Mathew B. Brady, photographer, 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints
Prints & Photographs Division
Grand Review of the Army. Presidential Reviewing Stand with Guests and Guard, Washington, D.C., Mathew B. Brady, photographer, 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints
Prints & Photographs Division
…Artillery Unit Passing on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., Mathew B. Brady, photographer, 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints
Prints & Photographs Division

Laid out by Pierre L’Enfant, Pennsylvania Avenue was one of the earliest streets constructed in the federal city. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson considered the avenue an important feature of the new capital. After inspecting L’Enfant’s plan, President Washington referred to the thoroughfare as a “Grand Avenue.” Jefferson concurred, and while the “grand avenue” was little more than a wide dirt road, he planted it with rows of fast growing Lombardy poplars.

Although Pennsylvania Avenue extends seven miles, the expanse between the White House and the Capitol constitutes the ceremonial heart of the nation. Washington called this stretch “most magnificent & most convenient” and it has served the country well. Ever since an impromptu procession formed around Jefferson’s second inauguration, each United States president has paraded down the Avenue after taking the oath of office. From William Henry Harrison to John F. Kennedy the funeral corteges of the seven presidents who died in office followed this route.

President McKinley’s Funeral Cortege at Washington, D.C., Thomas A. Edison, Inc., September 1901. The Last Days of a President: Films of McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition, 1901
Prints & Photographs Division

Not just the scene of official functions, Pennsylvania Avenue is the traditional parade and protest route of ordinary citizens. During the depression of the 1890s, for example, Jacob Coxey marched 500 supporters down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol to demand Federal aid for the unemployed. Similarly, on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 inauguration, Alice Paul masterminded a parade highlighting the woman suffrage movement. In July 1932, a contingent of the Bonus Expeditionary Force carried flags down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House where they planned to form picket lines. Pennsylvania Avenue also has served as a background for more lighthearted celebrations, including a series of day and nighttime Shriner’s parades in the 1920s and 1930s.

Learn More

The New York Public Library

President William Howard Taft presided over the dedication of the New York Public Library External on May 23, 1911.

Built on the site of the Croton Reservoir, the immense marble Beaux-Arts structure required a decade of preparation and construction. With room for exhibitions as well as a picture gallery, the New York Public Library was designed to meet a variety of educational needs. Strategically situated above seven floors of stacks, its main reading room provided researchers with requested materials as quickly as possible.

The New York Public Library building. c[between 1910 and 1920]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

Upon his death in 1886, former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden (1814-86) left money in trust for the creation of a free public library and reading room in New York City. Nearly ten years later, the Tilden Trust External combined with two existing research institutions—the Lenox Library and the Astor Library—to form the New York Public Library. The Library also assumed management of both the New York Free Circulating Library and a new branch library system funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

New York City Public Library. New York: A.C. Co., c1911. Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views.External

“It can hardly be thought extravagant to say that no site better adapted for a structure of suitable proportions for a metropolitan library could be carved out of any part of the city than this of Bryant Park. It is on the highest ground between the Central Park and the Battery; it is, and will continue to be, central as long as any place in New York is ever likely to be central…”

“The Tilden Trust Library: What Shall It Be?”External By John Bigelow. Scribner’s Magazine. (September 1892) v.12, #3; pp287-300. The Making of AmericaExternal

Learn More