Presidents Day

In nearly every public poll, George Washington is listed as either the greatest president or polls in the second spot behind Abraham Lincoln.  He was, of course, our first president, and many of those at the Constitutional Convention that drafted the document believed and wanted George Washington as the first president.  He was described during those deliberations as the “first character.”

After George Washington’s death in 1799, many communities commemorated his birthday as a tribute to our first president.  In 1885, Congress passed a law to recognize and celebrate George Washington’s birthday each February 22. 

On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act (Pub.L. 90—363) and moved four holidays—Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, and Washington’s birthday—to the nearest Monday to create more three-day weekends for American workers.  The bill took effect on January 1, 1971, though, Veteran’s Day was officially moved back to its original date on November 11, which reverted in 1978.

The plain brick tomb above was where George and Martha Washington were first laid to rest.

Though it is a national holiday, it is not referred consistently.  For instance, in Alabama it is referred to as George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthday, in Arizona it’s Lincoln/Washington/Presidents’ Day.  In Arkansas it is called both George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Bates Day while it is referred to as Washington’s Birthday in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Michigan.  The hodgepodge continues with Maine calling it Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day.  Minnesota calls it Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday while Montana flips that by referring to the holiday as Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthday.  Ohio combines the two most popular president’s names with Washington—Lincoln Day, as does Utah.  California simply calls it “the third Monday in February”, not acknowledging a president at all, while Delaware doesn’t celebrate it at all.  Virginia, however, Washington’s home state, simply celebrates it as George Washington Day.

George Washington’s will made a provision for the construction of a new tomb. George and Martha Washington’s remains were moved in 1831 after it was completed.

So, while many people have the misconception that by moving the date of the celebration of Washington’s birthday, that it combined the holiday to include Lincoln’s birthday with Washington’s (since they are both in February) or that the holiday was changed to include all presidents in the holiday.  Neither is true.  The holiday celebrates George Washington’s birthday and his alone.

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Cherub and the Crown

The white marble monument in the Miller Family plot of the Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas, is imbued with a profusion of symbolism as is common with many Victorian gravestones. 

The monument depicts a winged cherub standing on rock base.  The cherub is placing a crown above an oval cartouche below a rustic cross decorated with a wreath of flowers. The cartouche has a bow at its base with oak leaves and acorns twining up the right side and laurel leaves up the left, but the oval has no inscription.  The oak leaves and acorns are seen as a traditional symbol of strength while the laurel leaves symbolize victory over death.  Below the oval is an unfurled scroll, also empty. 

The crown is a symbol of glory and victory over death.  The reward awaits in Heaven where the victor will receive a crown of victory. The cross represents the suffering of Christ and is a universal symbol of Christianity.

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A monument to a boys’ hero



1846 – 1915








The copper plaque on the front of the pyramid, commends John Gunkel with high praise from the citizens of Toledo.  His work all began after a seemingly kindly woman offered to help the city’s bootblacks and newspaper boys save and invest their money emptied their bank account and absconded with the money.  The boys’ lifesavings were gone—she had cheated them. 

Gunkel who was motivated to do right by the boys, had to re-establish a sense of trust with the boys who were rightly leery of adults making promises.  He set up an organization that would treat them with respect and garner their trust while at the same time, investing their money safely.  The bootblacks and the newspaper boys were rivals.  So, Gunkel focused on creating an organization for the newspaper boys—the National Newsboys Association. On August 16, 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the organization was founded with Gunkel as the president.  Any boy between the ages of 9 and 17 could join without cost.  Each member wore an acorn-shaped badge.

In 1905, Gunkel published his book, Boyville, which helped him raise money to build a home for the Toledo Newsboys Association. The organization established, eventually offering classes in carpentry; drawing; shoe repair; typing; printing; and journalism, and career counseling.

As it turned out, John E. Gunkel passed away on the eleventh anniversary of the day, August 16, 1915, the National Newsboys Association. His memorial service was held at the Newsboys Association building. Over 1,600 people came to pay final respects. 

The newsboys mobilized to raise money for the construction of a memorial for Gunkel in Toledo’s Woodlawn cemetery which was dedicated on August 11, 1917.  To honor him over 30,000 stones were collected and contributed by newsboys and Toledo-area school children to construct a soaring pyramid.

The obelisk and the pyramid were part of the Egyptian Revival which became popular after the French and British occupations of Egypt.  That caused a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism.  The Egyptian symbol that is commonly found in American cemeteries is the obelisk.  And the most famous obelisk in America is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.  But nothing is more monumental than the pyramid and is by far the epitome of Egyptian funerary architecture—the tomb of the pharaohs.  The pyramid was a fitting memorial to Gunkel, who was a monumental figure to the Newsboys, especially one build with stones donated by the very boys he served and dedicated the later part of his career to.

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Prince Albert and Toledo, Ohio


1840 – 1905


1853 – 1899


1973 — 1899




1856 — 1930


1809 – 1880


1811 – 1876

The Ludwig monument in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio, is a gray granite tribute to the Ludwig family.

On top of the base and plinth, is a super structure supported by four columns holding up a spire with the entire monument soaring 57 feet high, the tallest in the cemetery.  Carved into the gable is the family’s initial, an encircled “L”.  According to the book, Images of America’s Toledo’s Woodlawn Cemetery by Rebecca Deck Visser and Renee Ciminillo Jayne, Arcadia Publishing 2014, page 117, it was after the death of his beloved wife, Samantha, and their son Theodore in 1899, that “Ludwig commissioned the largest monument in Woodlawn Cemetery.  Located just in the entrance, it is made of 13 sections of Vermont Granite.  Weighing approximately 185 tons and reaching 57 feet tall, the memorial, designed by Lloyd Brothers, was inspired by the Albert Memorial in London.  Railroad track was laid to carry the granite to the site, and a special a derrick was purchased to assemble the monument.” 

The opulent Prince Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens commissioned by Queen Victoria after her beloved husband’s death is a massive tribute.  The monument took ten years to create and soars 157 feet into the air.  While the Ludwig monument does not have the same size and the intricate and elaborate detail of the monument in Kensington, it is easy to see the influence of it in terms of the form and basic design.  At the center of the Prince Albert Monument is Prince Albert himself seated on the platform—his figure completely gilded.

A post from Holy Toledo History on December 11, 2018, written by Tedd Long, states Samantha Ludwig died from an extended illness that had left her confined to an easy chair.  The Lloyd Bros. original plan for the monument was to have a marble effigy of Samantha in the chair.  This would have been in keeping with the Prince Albert Monument.  But ultimately the family decided that was too personal and left out the effigy and instead chose to only have Samantha’s favorite armchair depict her.

The main element of the monument therefore became the elaborately tufted chair.  In keeping with the Victorians of the day, fringe covers the bottom of the chair.  Modesty required that even table and chair legs be covered.  One can imagine sitting in the chair reading a newspaper on a lazy Sunday morning or nodding off in the big, overstuffed chair while reading a book.  Or even scanning the cemetery from that high perch in what looks more like a tribute to the chair than the family.  In fact, the chair featured in the monument was Samantha Ludwig favorite armchair, the one she’d spent so many hours sitting and convalescing.  Even though the chair in this case is a particular one, the empty chair however is a symbol found often in cemeteries.  The empty chair symbolizes the loss of a loved one. 

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Sleeping Cherub

Sculptures of cherubs often adorn the graves of children. Here, is an example found in the Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the top of a family tomb commemorating the grave of a five-year-old boy.  The chubby angel above lays on the tomb sleeping.

Cherubim are one of nine orders or choirs of angels which are organized into three spheres, with three choirs in each sphere.  According to Christian tradition, the first sphere, which is made up of the Seraphim, Cherubim, and the Thrones, are considered the closet to Heaven. 

In Ezekiel 10:14, the Cherubim are described as having four likenesses or four faces, “And every one had four faces; the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.” 

The Cherubim were to be guardian angels.  This angel sleeps instead.

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Many Victorian cemetery monuments are imbued with a multitude of symbolism.  In David Robinson’s book, Saving Graces, mourning figures from some of the most beautiful and famous cemeteries in Europe show sculpted beautiful, young, and voluptuous women often wearing revealing clothing mourning the dead.

Robinson identified four categories of what he called ”Saving Graces”–first, women completely overcome by grief, often portrayed as having collapsed and fallen limp on the grave. Second are the women who are portrayed reaching up to Heaven as if to try to call their recently lost loved one back to Earth.  Third, are the women who are immobile, and grief stricken, often holding their head in their hands distraught with loss.  Lastly, he describes the last category of “Saving Graces” as the mourning figure who is “resigned with the loss and accepting of death.”

In this example from the Vysehrad Cemetery in Prague, the Tragrova family monument depicts two views of a mourning figure in the bas-relief bronze sculpture on the face of the monument.  In the background the mourning figure is depicted with her hands holding her head, stricken with grief and is the third type of mourning figure Robinson mentions.  The figure in the foreground is shown kneeling with her head bowed and appears to be resigned to accept the loss.  She holds a rose, possibly as an offering for the grave.  The act of placing the flower is also a recurring funerary motif which is designed to remind the viewer that life is short. The Victorian funerary symbolism associated with flowers used the rose to represent the love.  It also symbolized the messianic hope that Christ would return.

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The vigilant rooster

The rooster atop the Vandenweghe Family tomb in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, most likely represents vigilance and awakening. 

One can also imagine how the rooster crowing at the first rays of sunlight in the morning can also symbolize the resurrection.

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I Also Sing of Lust and Love and Life


GEB. 13. APRIL 1841. GEST 25 JULI 1900



GEB. 2. MAI 1842. GEST 28 JULI 1905


GEB 24 MAI. 1864 GEST 9. JUNI 1912

In 1902, Austrian sculptor, Friedrich Christoph Hausmann (June 23, 1860—October 23, 1936) created the delicately-carved white marble Heinz monument in Frankfurt Hauptfriedhof.  The monument depicts a young woman draped in a diaphanous wrap wearing a flower diadem and sitting under what appears to be a budding oak tree. Birds perch overhead.

Hausmann was commissioned to create many public and private works including fountains and tombs, many still extant.  During the time he created this sculpture, he served as the director of the Frankfurt’s School of Applied Arts.

The monument, dedicated to the Heinz family, features the following epitaph:








Which loosely translates to:

“Even if, from my cloudy eyes, an ocean of pain appears to me, I also sing of lust and love and life.” 

The epitaph was written by Saxen-Hausen, which is a pseudonym for Carl Heinz.  Heinz was a published author. 

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Fidelity and Loyalty

Two bronze dogs flank the steps to the massive granite Michel Mausoleum in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.  Though the dogs are laying down, their heads are slightly raised as if they are ready to jump into action.  

The dog is typically seen representing fidelity and loyalty.

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The Star and the Harp




A.D. 1850

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even

So them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

1 Thess; 4 Chap. 14 Verse

 Thus when we in Christ have slumbered,

We shall rise, with the Wise,

And with them be numbered.

The Ebauch red sandstone family mausoleum in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn has two symbols carved on the tomb’s door—a seven-pointed star with the words “OF BETHLEHEM” and below the star is an intricately carved harp with the words, “OF ZION.”

According to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, the Star of Bethlehem was the light that signaled the miraculous birth of the Christ child that inspired the Magi to travel to Bethlehem just south of Jerusalem.

The harp has been considered the instrument of angels.  The Biblical passages Psalm 137, verses 1 through 3, read, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps Upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”  The light and airy tones that emanate from the harp, ethereal and almost mystical, have long been thought of as the sound of Heaven.  

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