The Washington Elm

American legend has it that here on July 3, 1775, George Washington took command of the Continental Army. Whether or not this is actually true, the Washington Elm has since been revered and visited by generations of Americans following the Revolution. The tree that originally stood in what is now the intersection of Mason Street and Garden Street but came crashing down in a 1923 storm. The elm was dismembered and parts of its trunk were shipped all over the nation, to state capitals, to local and national governmental offices, and to prominent people. Memorabilia was crafted from its wood, and scions, like the one that stands here today, were cultivated and planted all over the country.

But the Washington Elm was a symbol of a much larger trend in American history. After the colonies became states and the British provincials became Americans, and after the failure of the Articles of Confederation and the ratification of the Constitution, the future of the United States remained uncertain. What had begun as a radical experiment in republican and enlightened thought, had to now be applied to a troubling unfolding reality. As the post-Revolution economic depression set in and party conflict threatened political unity, the fragile young nation was tested. Although the Founding Fathers were compelled to compromise their original vision, they did not abandon the revolutionary principles that they had fought so hard to uphold. But a very basic question remained: what did it mean to be an American?

Americanism was not forced upon the public by its leaders. Americanism, like the Revolution itself, emerged from meetinghouses, merchant houses, farmhouses, and state houses, and from a complex, rocky relationship between the different regions. Although we now take it for granted, the very basic ideas upon which our government and our identity as Americans is based were envisioned, fought for, and implemented by our not-so-distant ancestors. Monuments, like the Washington Elm, were a part of this process, contributing to the creation of a uniquely American identity.

Washington Elm in the Centennial Washington Elm Washington Elm


Washington Elm Today

Tree Planted with seeds of the Washington Elm Tree Planted with seeds of Washington Elm Marker for the Bicentennial
Washington Elm Marker Washington taking Command of the Army Memorial Washington Taking Command of the Army Memorial
Washington's Orders


Washington Elm Objects

Washington Elm China Washington Elm China Washington Elm China

Washington Elm China Washington Elm China Washington Elm China
Piece of Washington Elm


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