The greatest monument in Washington you've never noticed: The U.S. Grant Memorial

"Celebrated as the largest equestrian monument in the U.S., it is a tour de force of monumental sculpture. . . . It marks the eastern terminus of the National Mall and faces the Lincoln Memorial almost two miles to the west, symbolically linking the President and the General who fought to save the Union. . . . It is a remarkable achievement by a sculptor who, with little formal training, toiled twenty years to translate his grand vision into cast bronze."

The Architect of the Capitol describing the U.S. Grant Memorial, which is located on the West (Mall) side of the Capitol.

It was the largest bronze sculpture cast in the United States at the time.

Edward Pearce Caseys was the architect and Henry Merwin Shrady the sculptor. Their entry was selected by a panel that included renowned sculptors Daniel Chester French and Augustus Saint-Gaudens

The memorial was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of Grant's birth, April 27, 1922.  Shrady had died two weeks earlier.

The 200th anniversary of Grant's birth is less than two weeks away.

Lee Wright | Founder | The History List | History Camp | The Pursuit of History


Sources for the text: The Architect of the Capitol and Wikipedia.

All photos are by the author and available under a Creative Commons license. (CC BY 2.0)  More images are in this Flicker album.





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April 25, 2022

Win a chance to be aboard USS Constitution on their 4th of July turnaround

USS Constitution July 4 Turnaround
Photo by Chris DeversCC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Get the chance to ride aboard the USS Constitution as it sails in Boston Harbor to celebrate America's Independence on Monday, July 4.

This annual event is one of the few times that the ship is taken out of its berth in the Charlestown Navy Yard.  There is a lottery for the highly-prized free tickets to be able to sail aboard the ship during the turnaround.  (The ship is actually moved by tug; it's not under sail.)

Click here to apply in this year's lottery.

Submission deadline is on June 3, 2022. A winner will be selected on June 8, 2022 and notified by email.

Watch a short video of the USS Constitution turnaround taken a few years ago:


Shop our USS Constitution limited edition print

This original and commissioned design honors the USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides, and is the oldest ship of any kind still afloat and is most noted for her actions during the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom, when she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships.

Available in a very limited edition archival print, small poster, cards, sticker, and magnet. Explore the complete collection.

USS Constitution products from The History List store.


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March 2, 2022

"Give me liberty, or give me death!" from Patrick Henry's inspirational speech to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775

Give me Liberty, or Give Me Death Litograph

In 1775 unrest bubbled through the American Colonies. Britain had severely restricted Massachusetts through the Intolerable Acts; towns were voting to boycott British goods, and British soldiers were becoming a common sight in the American Colonies.

In this lesson you will explore a famous speech by Patrick Henry (1736–1799), member of the Second Virginia Convention.

The Second Virginia Convention

Patrick Henry is not speaking in the Virginia House of Burgesses [the state legislature] in Williamsburg because it had been dissolved the year before by Royal Governor Dunmore. Resenting this British interference with local government, the members of the House of Burgesses regrouped as a state convention. In order to avoid any interference from British troops, the Second Convention of approximately 120 delegates met in Richmond, Virginia, from March 20 through March 27.

 The American Colonies were attempting to negotiate with British in 1775, and many of Henry’s fellow delegates wanted to wait until these negotiations were completed before taking action. But Henry felt that delay would be a major mistake. On March 23, 1775, he asked the Virginia Convention to take a defensive stance immediately against Great Britain by raising an armed company in every Virginia county — an action considered by many to be open treason. His speech reflected language and actions far more radical that his fellow delegates were willing to go in public, but Henry based his request upon the assumption that even more aggressive military actions by the British would soon follow. Twenty-seven days after this speech was delivered the Battles of Lexington and Concord proved Henry correct.

This speech was recreated in 1817 by William Wirt of Maryland, who published the first biography of Patrick Henry. Wirt drew upon materials collected beginning in 1808, including interviews with those who knew Henry and those who were present when the speech was delivered. 

Source: Patrick Henry and “Give Me Liberty!”, The American Humanities Center.

→ View our original designs inspired by Patrick Henry's speech, "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!". In The History List store.

The speech

St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia
March 23, 1775

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!



Source: Based on a description of the speech in Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, William Wirt (1836).  The speech appears on pages 119 - 123.  The full text of Wirt’s biography of Henry is online.

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February 16, 2022

How Dolley Madison saved the portrait of Washington from British troops in 1814, with help from Paul Jennings, John Susé, Jacob Barker, and Robert G. L. De Peyster, among others


You've heard how Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington from the British as they were approaching the President's House, as it was called then, to ransack it and set it afire.

We looked at primary and secondary sources to get a more complete picture of what happened that night, and it's even more interesting.

First, let's start with this from the National Park Service

"On August 17, 1814, 4000 British troops began landing in Maryland. In nearby Washington, President Madison, fearing for the security of the capital, but with no regular troops at hand, called out the militia.

As thousands of Washingtonians packed their belongings and left town, First Lady Dolley Madison resolved to stay with her husband and, if necessary, oversee the evacuation of the White House.

By midday on Wednesday, August 24, 1814, British troops marching from Bladensburg stood poised to attack Washington. Convinced by friends that it was time to flee, the First Lady pointed to Gilbert Stuart’s full-length portrait of President George Washington. 'Save that picture, if possible,' she instructed Paul Jennings, a 15-year-old enslaved African-American. 'If not possible, destroy it: under no circumstance allow it to fall into the hands of the British.'

Madison initially ordered Jennings to help remove the entire portrait, frame and all, from the White House wall. But with the British approaching and time running short, she ordered Jennings to break the frame apart so the canvas could be removed with a knife. Two friends of the Madison family then carted the portrait away, storing it in a farmhouse outside Washington for safekeeping.  

After the repair of the White House from fire damage, Washington’s portrait returned to the executive mansion. It is the only item currently on display that was present when the White House opened in 1800.  

After gaining his freedom, Jennings went on to publish his White House memoirs in 1865. The book, A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison, included a recounting of his frenzied escape from the White House in 1814.”

Source: Summer 1814: Dolley Madison saves Washington’s portrait, with some help

Note: We can't find any original source for the dramatic quote above. If you know of one, please let us know.

Print shows a view from northeast of the fire-damaged White House, a result of the War of 1812. On August 24, 1814, British general Robert Ross led his troops into Washington with strict orders to burn only public buildings. On August 25, a tornado blew through the city, bringing torrential rains that quelled both fires and British desire to pursue further action in Washington.

→ Check out our Dolley Madison collection, including "Remember the ladies," with five notable women in U.S. history, and our "Dolley Madison Art Storage" shirts and tote bags, with our tongue-in-cheek reference to Dolley Madison saving the portrait of Washington.

Your purchase of these original designs supports The History List.

Interestingly, Jennings’s account in his book is slightly different than what the National Park Service described

Dolley Madison
"It has often been stated in print, that when Mrs. Madison escaped from the White House, she cut out from the frame the large portrait of Washington (now in one of the parlors  there), and carried it off. This is totally false. She had no time for doing it. It would have required a ladder to get it down. All she carried off was the silver in her reticule, as the British were thought to be but a few squares off, and were expected every moment. John Susé (a Frenchman, then door-keeper, and still living) and Magraw, the President's gardener, took it down and sent it off on a wagon, with some large silver urns and such other valuables as could be hastily got hold of. When the British did arrive, they ate up the very dinner, and drank the wines, &c., that I had prepared for the President's party.”

Though unrelated the hurried removal of the painting, Jennings describes Mrs. Madison in this poignant note:

"Mrs. Madison was a remarkably fine woman. She was beloved by every body in Washington, white and colored. Whenever soldiers marched by, during the war, she always sent out and invited them in to take wine and refreshments, giving them liberally of the best in the house. Madeira wine was better in those days than now, and more freely drank. In the last days of her life, before Congress purchased her husband's papers, she was in a state of absolute poverty, and I think sometimes suffered for the necessaries of life. While I was a servant to Mr. Webster, he often sent me to her with a market-basket full of provisions, and told me whenever I saw anything in the house that I thought she was in need of, to take it to her. I often did this, and occasionally gave her small sums from my own pocket, though I had years before bought my freedom of her."

Source: A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison, by Paul Jennings

→ View our original designs inspired by Dolley Madison.  In The History List Store.

Dolley Madison's own account is contained in, “Extract from a letter to my sister, published in the sketch of my life, written for the National Portrait Gallery”

"Tuesday Augt. 23d. 1814.

Dear Sister

My husband left me yesterday morng. to join Gen. Winder. He enquired anxiously whether I had courage, or firmness to remain in the President’s house until his return, on the morrow, or succeeding day, and on my assurance that I had no fear but for him and the success of our army, he left me, beseeching me to take care of myself, and of the cabinet papers, public and private. I have since recd. two despatches from him, written with a pencil; the last is alarming, because he desires I should be ready at a moment’s warning to enter my carriage and leave the city; that the enemy seemed stronger than had been reported, and that it might happen that they would reach the city, with intention to destroy it. . . . I am accordingly ready; I have pressed as many cabinet papers into trunks as to fill one carriage; our private property must be sacrificed, as it is impossible to procure wagons for its transportation. I am determined not to go myself until I see Mr Madison safe, and he can accompany me, as I hear of much hostility towards him, . . . disaffection stalks around us. . . . My friends and acquaintances are all gone; Even Col. C with his hundred men, who were stationed as a guard in the enclosure . . . . French John (a faithful domestic,) with his usual activity and resolution, offers to spike the cannon at the gate, and to lay a train of powder which would blow up the British, should they enter the house. To the last proposition I positively object, without being able, however, to make him understand why all advantages in war may not be taken.

Wednesday morng., twelve o’clock. Since sunrise I have been turning my spyglass in every direction and watching with unwearied anxiety, hoping to discern the approach of my dear husband and his friends, but, alas, I can descry only groups of military wandering in all directions, as if there was a lack of arms, or of spirit to fight for their own firesides!

Three O’clock. Will you believe it, my Sister? We have had a battle or skirmish near Bladensburg, and I am still here within sound of the cannon! Mr. Madison comes not; may God protect him! Two messengers covered with dust, come to bid me fly; but I wait for him. . . . At this late hour a wagon has been procured, I have had it filled with the plate and most valuable portable articles belonging to the house; whether it will reach its destination; the Bank of Maryland, or fall into the hands of British soldiery, events must determine.

Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and is in a very bad humor with me because I insist on waiting until the large picture of Gen. Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvass taken out it is done, and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping. And now, dear sister, I must leave this house, or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it, by filling up the road I am directed to take. When I shall again write you, or where I shall be tomorrow, I cannot tell!!"

Source: Incidents in the Life of Jacob Barker, of New Orleans, Louisiana, etc., by Jacob Barker, one of the two men who carried off the painting for safekeeping.

Several years later she sought to set the record straight in a letter to Robert G. L. De Peyster, who accompanied Barker that night:

"WASHINGTON, February 11th, 1848.

Dear Sir:

I did not receive your favor containing the newspapers, and therefore is my impatience to assure you of my gratitude for the interest you take in my defence in the later narrative of the picture rescue.

You will see by the enclosed what was said at the time. The impression that Mr. Carroll saved Stuart’s portrait of Washington is erroneous. The paper which was to accompany your letter has not reached me, but I have heard that his family believed he rescued it. On the contrary, Mr. Carroll had left me to join Mr. Madison, when I directed my servants in what manner to remove it from the wall, remaining with them until it was done. I saw Mr. Barker and yourself (the two gentlemen alluded to) passing, and accepted your offer to assist me, in any way, by inviting you to help me to preserve this portrait, which you kindly carried, between you, to the humble but safe roof which sheltered it awhile. I acted thus because of my respect for General Washington—not that I felt a desire to gain laurels; but, should there be a merit in remaining an hour in danger of life and liberty to save the likeness of anything, the merit in this case belongs to me. Accept my respect and best wishes.  

D. P. Madison"

Source: David B. Mattern and Holly C. Shulman, eds., The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003), 387.

The White House Historical Association provides details on the source of Mrs. Madison’s letter and, as it turns out, the original letter no longer exists:

“The extract of the letter Dolley Madison wrote to her sister describing the events leading up to her White House escape is dated August 23 and 24, 1814. Because the richly detailed letter is unique as a record of these critical events and was written by one of the few White House witnesses present, historians have used the contents of the letter over and over again in their histories of the period and in biographies of Dolley Madison. Recent research by historian David Mattern, who is also an editor of James Madison’s papers, revealed some interesting findings. He explains that the original letter does not exist. What historians use is a transcript or extracts of the letter that Dolley Madison copied from a book, The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, published in Philadelphia, 1837-1846. Twenty years after the White House burned, Mrs. Madison was asked to select some letters from the past to be published in this book. The letter to her sister was the only one selected to be printed. At some point in time, Mrs. Madison then copied it out of the book in her own handwriting. This transcription is the only record of the letter in her handwriting.

Although the letter begins with, ‘Dear Sister,’ there is no indication which sister she meant: Lucy Todd Washington or Anna Cutts. It was customary to make a handwritten copy of a letter for the record before you mailed the original; in her haste, Mrs. Madison probably did not. Therefore, she would have had to retrieve the letter from her sister in order to send it to the publisher. Because sister Anna lived near Dolley, and it would be convenient to retrieve the letter, it is thought that Anna was the recipient. (It was not at all unusual to keep letters for long periods).

While Mrs. Madison regularly corresponded with friends and family, this particular letter differs in its tone and formality. She provides details that do not seem to be necessary to add, if she were simply writing to her sister. Did she re-write it later, for a broader audience? What is not in question, however, is the accuracy of the information. Another Madison letter written to Mary Latrobe, December 3, 1814, does not contradict the details.”

Source:  The White House Historical Association

The portrait that was saved was likely not the original

Gilbert Stuart - George Washington (detail of book labels)"But whether the portrait saved by Dolley Madison and Paul Jennings was painted by Stuart’s hand or that of a lesser known artist, it was still just a copy of the original Lansdowne portrait. That original is usually on display at the National Portrait Gallery, not far from the version of the painting that was saved from the British—that copy is still displayed in the East Room of the White House. There’s one easy way to identify this particular iteration: The artist included a “typo” to set it apart from the others. If you look closely at the books by the table leg, you can see [photo below] that one is titled The Constitution and Laws of the United Sates."  

Source: Mentalfloss

In closing

Did it happen exaclty as commonly described?  

My sense is that it didn't, but what I take away from the primary sources is that it was an even more daring, chaotic escape, which reflects very positively on all involved, from Dolley Madison, wife of the president, to Paul Jennings, a 15 year old boy enslaved to President Madison. It is thanks to their efforts that this painting, even if it is a copy, hangs in the White House today.  

— Lee Wright  |  Founder  |  The History List  |  History Camp  | The Pursuit of History

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Our original design is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Dolley Madison saving the portrait of Washington as the British were approaching on Washington in 1814.

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February 3, 2020

Gifts for History Teachers

Show your appreciation for history teachers by giving them the perfect history-related presents. This history teacher gift list includes history classroom decorations, history t-shirts and clothing, history mugs, signed history books, and other gift ideas that history teachers will truly appreciate.

A historic print will be a perfect addition to every history classroom, such as the Boston broadside "Decaration of Independence" from the printing Office of Edes & Gill. Pair it with a pre-ratification broadside of the "U.S. Constitution", for a savings of $5.00. These historic documents are printed by hand


"Declaration of Independence" and "US Constitution" from The Printing Office of Edes & Gill

History teachers will also love these history posters for the classroom. We have the "Revolutionary Superheroes" Poster featuring Abigail and John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton.

"Revolutionary Superheroes" poster

You may also purchase our new Mayflower Passengers Infographic Poster, together with the "Revolutionary Superheroes" Poster and save $5.00. The Mayflower Infographic Poster shows a list of the Mayflower Passengers and those who made it to the First Thanksgiving in 1621.

Poster of the Mayflower Passengers and those who made it to the First Thanksgiving in 1621.

These history coffee mugs come in two original designs, "We hold these truths - July 4, 1776" Mug and the "History Nerd" Mug with Ben Franklin surrounded by 25 of his witty, inspirational quotes.

History Mugs from The History List

Our "History Teacher" shirts with Ben Franklin are well-loved by history teachers. It comes in two styles - as a crewneck for men and women and in a women's v-neck shirt.

"History Teacher" with Ben Franklin shirts

The "Revolutionary Superheroes" Pocket notebooks and the "1776” Note cards with envelopes which comes in a set of 6.

Revolutionary Superheroes Pocket Notebook and 1776 Note Card from The History List


History teachers will take delight in receiving our most-loved stickers and magnets in one pack. Choose between our “History Lover” sticker and magnet pack"Revolutionary War" Sticker pack, and "History Major" sticker pack.


History nerd stickers and magnets

Find all these great gift ideas and more at The History List store

Find a longer list of gifts at



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