what is the washington monument made of

What is the Washington Monument made of? Limestone. The exterior stones have two shades, the lower stones being lighter than the higher stones. The halt in construction caused the need to use stones from two different quarries. About stone as building material.

Washington Monument

© 2009 Marina Rundell

"Inside the memorial, and closed to the public, are 193 memorial stones lining the walls, all donated by different patriotic groups, cities and states. At the request of the memorial society, they were sent from far and wide, beginning in 1848. They simply had to be quarried or made from native stone or materials, be durable and 4 feet (1.2 m) by 2 feet (61 cm) high, and have a thickness of 18 inches (45.7 cm)." More here.

You can see these interior stones while going down the elevator. Many are precious and valuable stones. This section of the monument is now closed to the public. Instead of walking up the steps, you now have to take the elevator.

interior wall washington monument

© 2009 Marina Rundell

Top of Washington Monument

© 2009 Marina Rundell

About aluminum crowning the monument:

"What better way to crown the top of American's special monument to one of its greatest presidents? Choose a metal that would last forever, was a precious as silver (silver and aluminum cost the same in the late 1800's), could be cast into the shape of a pyramid, polished to a high luster, engraved for posterity, and, perhaps more important, being a metal, it could protect the main structure of the Monument against lightning damage."

"The only problem was that aluminum at that time was very difficult to produce and, therefore, very expensive. It was definitely not the familiar household metal it is today. The aluminum industry giants, ALCOA and Reynolds, were unheard of before the turn of the century."

"To put the value of this metal into perspective at the time of its installation in 1884, it helps to know that its selling price was $1.00 per ounce and at that time a workman erecting the Monument had to labor for almost three months - eighty days - in order to earn enough just to pay for this little 5-lb. piece of metal sitting on its pinnacle. The cost of one ounce of aluminum, one dollar, was not only the same as an ounce of silver but it was equivalent to a full day's wages."

"One reason aluminum was so costly was because it was absolutely essential to use the highest purity aluminum oxide available which happened to be corundum, the best source of aluminum oxide known at the time. Bauxite, the ore used today in the far less costly Electrolytic Reduction Process, was not pure enough."

"This is where Carolina's unique mineral resource enters the scene. The purest corundum is in crystalline form and the best crystals were being mined commercially in the gravels, stream beds, mountain sides and soils of the Carolinas; mostly in the Cowee River Valley of Macon County, North Carolina." Read full article here.

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