The 1912 Dedication of the Columbus Memorial


From The Knights of Columbus in Peace and War, (published 1920, pp. 189-191), by Maurice Francis Egan and John B. Kennedy:


The bill [#267, in 1907, calling for erection of the monument to Christopher Columbus] carried a provision for $100,000 "or as much as is necessary" for the prosecution of the project. President Taft signed the bill on March 4, 1910, the pens used by the Clerk of the House, the Vice President and the President being afterwards presented to Potomac Council.


The Secretary of War named Colonel Spencer Crosby to cooperate with Supreme Knight Hearn in arranging for the memorial, and the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus voted $10,000 to defray expenses in this matter, thus demonstrating the practical gratitude of the Order for the nation's recognition, through Congress, of its efforts in behalf of the Discoverer. The columns of The Columbiad were for years devoted to the movement, being the authentic source of news concerning the progress of the memorial.


Through this insistent publicity, augmented by propagation of the movement at subordinate, State and Supreme Council meetings, a lively interest was aroused. When the date of the unveiling of the memorial was at length announced, June 8, 1912, five years after the monument was authorized, State Deputies and their aids commenced to vie with one another in canvassing their jurisdictions to secure promises from members to attend the ceremony.


Twenty thousand Knights of Columbus, with their wives and friends, flocked to Washington from every State in the Union to make the greatest gathering of the Order ever witnessed since its foundation. National commissioner Edward L. Hearn and his associates on the Committee of Arrangements had perfected the most impressive programme ever carried out in Washington since the famous parade of the veterans of the Northern army on the conclusion of peace with the South. President Taft, Cardinal Gibbons, Secretary of State Philander C. Knox, Chief Justice White and other dignitaries of Church and State reviewed the parade of the Knights led by Supreme Knight Flaherty, and were present at the unveiling of the statue and the brilliant banquet that crowned the event.


The parade attracted the largest crowd ever gathered together in Washington. At the scene of the monument in the spacious plaza before the Union station, within view of the dome of the Capitol, the unveiling took place, the ceremony being performed by the Italian Ambassador, His Excellency the Marchese Cusani Confalonieri. Monsignor Shahan of the Catholic University recited the opening prayer, and Secretary Knox, presiding officer, presented Hon. Victor J. Dowling, of New York, and Representative James T. McCleary, of Minnesota, who addressed the gathering on the significance of the event.


Every vantage point was occupied, and the patriotic enthusiasm of the spectators arose to a pitch unexcelled by any demonstration previously or since held in Washington. The same enthusiasm marked the banquet of the evening of the ceremonies. Supreme Advocate Joseph C. Pelletier, toastmaster, summoned some of the most noted speakers in the country to address the vast assemblage of Knights: Speaker of the House Champ Clark, John Barrett, Director General of the Pan American Union, Representative Oscar W. Underwood, Representative James P. Mann, Hon. Joseph Scott, of Los Angeles, Denis A. McCarthy, who recited an original poem in honor of the event, George F. Monaghan, of Detroit, and Hon. Joseph Cannon who uttered a remarkable tribute to what he termed "the grand old Mother Church of Christianity."


The brilliant ceremonies of the unveiling were continued on the following day when His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons celebrated a Field Mass on the grounds of the Washington Monument, where hundreds of Fourth Degree Knights in full uniform were the Guard of Honor. And on June 10, the Knights of the District of Columbia brought the memorable event to a close by holding a reception for the Most Reverend Archbishop John Bonzano, who had not long before succeeded His Eminence Cardinal Diomede Falconio, a staunch friend of the Order, as Apostolic Delegate.


The Washington Star characterized the event as marking anew the important position the Knights of Columbus held as an order in the social fabric of the United States. Carried as a principal item of news in the leading journals of the country, there is no question that this event takes premier rank over every public demonstration ever made by the Knights. Certainly nothing before or after has brought to the name of the country's Discoverer the honor that had always been his due. president Taft interpreted the sentiments of every true hearted American, and placed an authoritative stamp upon the entire Colombian movement, when in his speech at the unveiling of the monument he declared: "It is most appropriate in this beautiful place in which the visitor to the country's capital first sets foot upon the small district that is the only territory in which this great government exercises exclusive jurisdiction, that he should be confronted by a statue of the great mariner whose genius and daring opened this half world to progress and development. Here Columbus may well have his greatest and most fitting memorial."


From Faith and Fraternalism, by Christopher J. Kauffman, (published 1982, pp. 162-163):


President William Howard Taft, accompanied by most of his cabinet, several Supreme Court justices, and many congressmen, was on hand for the occasion. 41 After Monsignor Thomas J. Shahan, rector of Catholic University, led the invocation, Victor J. Dowling, a former National Director of the K. of C. and a Justice of the New York Supreme Court, gave a brief address on the historical significance of the discoverer. Dowling's speech, like the Fourth Degree ritual through which he passed as a charter member, was another tribute to the Catholic contribution to the American heritage. "Here was no Alexander, sighing for new worlds to conquer, but here was the apostolic spirit for one who sighed for quicker ways to make known to distant lands the sweetness of Faith and the light of Hope. Here was one who, like Napoleon, believed in his star; but the star of Columbus was the star of Bethlehem." 42


President Taft followed Dowling to the podium to laud the discoverer's courage and daring, noting how appropriate it was that the Columbus Memorial was situated across from Union Station, where visitors could view the symbol of the nation's origin in its capital city.43 Shortly after the President's speech there was a parade. After 2,500 soldiers and sailors passed the reviewing stand "came the Knights of Columbus the men who made possible this great demonstration. There were surely nineteen or twenty thousand of them in line perhaps more and from first to last they made a showing of which not only they themselves may be proud, but which must have been a source of pride and pleasure as well to every Catholic who view them." 44 That evening the K. of C. banquet marked the culmination of an important occasion for the Order. With twelve hundred in attendance, including Cardinal Gibbons, Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and several other prominent politicians, ambassadors, and clergymen, the banquet symbolized the Order's growing stature. A reporter of the Washington Star remarked that, "like the ceremonies of the unveiling itself [the banquet] marked anew the important position of the Knights to Columbus as an Order in the social fabric of the United States." 45 Past Supreme Knight Hearn declared, "Never in the history of the Nation's Capital, a city rich in memories of pomp and pageantry, has any civic demonstration equaled, in point of numbers, genteel appearance and orderly demeanor, the patriotic display made by the Knights of Columbus. The spectacle of over 20,000 men representing the flower and chivalry of Catholic manhood, marching in well ordered ranks through the streets of Washington, would thrill and gladden the heart of any Christian man." 46


End Notes:


41 Dennis A. McCarthy, "Unveiling a Magnificent Success," Columbiad [renamed Columbia in 1921] XIX (July 1912), 3.

42 Ibid., "Addresses Delivered at the Unveiling," 6.

43 Ibid., 8.

44 Ibid., McCarthy, 4.

45 Ibid., "The Grand Banquet," 5.

46 Ibid., Edward Hearn, "Proud of Knight," 11.


Souvenir Program

Unveiling of the Columbus Memorial

Saturday, June 8, 1912

Washington, D.C.




Since the Columbian Celebration in 1892, which marked the four hundredth anniversary of his discovery, there has been a growing sentiment for the erection of a national memorial to Christopher Columbus. The sentiment grew in strength until it could no longer be denied. Fostered and advocated by the Knights of Columbus, it reached the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States in the form of a bill, framed by Bro. Joseph Paul Burg, former Advocate of the Potomac Council of Washington, D.C. The bill was introduced in January, 1906, by the Hon. Joseph A. Goulden, of the Eighteenth District of New York.


The bill was reported favorably by the Hon. James T. McCleary, of Minnesota, Chairman of the Committee on Library of the House. Senator Hansbrough, of North Dakota, acting Chairman of the Library Committee of the Senate, gave material help in procuring the passage of the bill.


The enactment of the law providing for an appropriation of $100,000 to erect a memorial to Columbus, was especially gratifying to the Knights of Columbus, to whom the memory of their illustrious patron is held in deepest respect and reverence.


The Columbus Memorial Commission first met on Saturday, May 18, 1907, in the office of the Secretary of State at Washington, the following members being present: President Taft, Hon. Elihu Root, Hon. Geo. Peabody Wetmore, Hon. James T. McCleary and Edward L. Hearn, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.


The Commission selected the design submitted by Mr. Lorado Taft, of Chicago.


Born in Genoa in 1451, the life of Columbus covered a span of fifty five years. He was a natural leader of men, an intrepid navigator, a statesman and an intellectual genius, whose measure of greatness is now receiving partial and tardy recognition. Of the motives impelling his voyage of discovery, Washington Irving says: "One of the great objects held out by Columbus in his undertaking was the propagation of the Christian faith. He expected to arrive at the extremity of Asia, or India, as it was then generally termed, at the vast empire of the Grand Kahn, of whose maritime provinces of Mangi and Cathay, and their dependent islands, since ascertained to be a part of the kingdom of China, the most magnificent accounts had been given by Marco Polo; and when he afterwards departed on this voyage, letters were actually given him, by the sovereigns, for the Grand Kahn of Tartary.


"The ardent enthusiasm of Columbus did not stop here. Recollecting the insolent threat once made by the Sultan of Egypt, to destroy the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem, he proposed that the profits which might arise from his discoveries, should be consecrated to a crusade for the rescue of the holy edifice from the power of the infidels. * * * It is a curious and characteristic fact, which has never been particularly noticed, that the recovery of the holy sepulchre was the leading object of his ambition, meditated throughout the remainder of his life, and solemnly provided for in his will, and that he considered his great discovery but as a preparatory dispensation of Providence, to furnish means for its accomplishment."




The Order was founded by the Rev. M. J. McGivney, in New Haven, Conn., on Feb. 2, 1882, and incorporated under the laws of that State on March 29, 1882; the organizers and incorporators were the Rev. M. J. McGivney, the Rev. P. P. Lawlor, James T. Mullen, Cornelius T. Driscoll, Dr. M. C. O'Connor, Daniel Colwell, Wm. M. Geary, John T. Kerrigan, Bartholomew Healey and Michael Curran. It numbers now over 300,000, and has its councils in every state and territory of the United States; in every province of Canada, and in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Philippine Islands, Mexico, Cuba and Panama.


The promotion and propagation of practical Catholicity, education and charity are the objects of the order. It does not attack any man's belief, but aims at building up charity among men.


The good works performed by the Knights of Columbus have long since justified the existence of the great organization. Besides endowing hospital beds, maintaining employment agencies, and providing sanataria for the sick, the Order has endowed a chair of American History in the Catholic University, in the sum of $50,000.


The Knights have given liberally to the Library of the Catholic University, and are completing an endowment of $500,000 for the maintenance of fifty students at that great institution.




The Knights of Columbus and the citizens of Washington, represented by committees from the Board of Trade and the Chamber of Commerce, have planned for entertainment on a big scale, as follows:


Friday Afternoon, June 7th. Pilgrimage of national officers of the Knights of Columbus, members of the Order and visitors to the tomb of General Washington at Mount Vernon.


Friday Night. Grand public reception at the National Museum. This big feature has been arranged by Hon. Cuno H. Rudolph, President of the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia. The President of the United States has been invited to head the receiving line. There will be music by a celebrated musical organization in attendance.


Automobile Parade, 8 p.m., Pennsylvania Avenue.


Saturday. The unveiling exercises begin promptly at 3 o'clock, at the statue. Secretary of State Philander C. Knox will preside, and the speakers will be President Wm. H. Taft, Justice Victor J. Dowling, of the Supreme Court of New York State: Hon. James T. McCleary of the Columbus Memorial Commission. The Italian Ambassador, Marquis Cusani Confalonieri, will unveil the statue. Wreaths will be placed on the statue from President Wm. H. Taft, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, and from the State jurisdictions of the Knights of Columbus in the thirteen original States of the Union. The invocation will be presented by Mgr. Thomas Shahan, rector of the Catholic University of America. Bishop Wilbur P. Thirkield, of the M.E. Church, will pronounce the benediction. Music by the Marine Band.


A National Salute of twenty one guns will be fired by Battery E., Third Field Artillery, U.S.A.


There will be a display of fireworks from the Monument Grounds during the evening.


Directly following the unveiling exercises the pageant will be reviewed by the President of the United States and the distinguished guests and visitors. The parade will be under the command of Big. Gen. R. K. Evans, U.S.A., Grand Marshal.


The Knights of Columbus will constitute the first civilian division in the parade, headed by Supreme Knight Flaherty, of Philadelphia, Pa., and the following officers: Martin H. Carmody, Deputy Supreme Knight; Wm. J. McGinley, Supreme Secretary; D. J. Callahan, Supreme Treasurer; Joseph C. Pelletier, Supreme Advocate; Dr. E. W. Buckley, Supreme Physician; Rev. P. J. McGivney, Supreme Chaplain; Thos. J. McLaughlin, Supreme Warden.


The Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus will have the right of line in this division. It will be headed by Marshal Thomas P. Flynn, of Chicago, Ill.


The Third Degree men will come next, headed by their State Deputies.


Floats depicting a variety of the historical phases of the life of Columbus will intersperse the lines of marchers. The first will be Columbus before the throne of Ferdinand and Isabella, seeking their assistance for the great voyage of discovery. There will be a retinue of court functionaries in the picture, twenty five persons altogether. The float will be drawn by four horses, led by heralds.


The next float will represent the departure of Columbus from Spain. The float will be quite complete,. and will be drawn by six horses, with heralds and outriders.


An especially large float will depict the landing of Columbus, showing the great discoverer in the act of planting his standard on the American continent. He is accompanied by sailors and guards, and the terrified Indians are seen in the woodland. Six richly caparisoned horses will draw this living picture.


There will be a number of other floats distributed throughout the parade, including scenes representing another conception of the landing, the Discoverer sighting land, and finally Columbus again before the throne of Ferdinand and Isabella, showing the proofs of his discovery.


The Citizens' Committee in charge of the arrangements for the unveiling has made elaborate preparations. Maj. Richard Sylvester, chief of police and the chairman of the Committee on Public Order, has completed all details for the handling of the vast throng of visitors and for the policing of the line of march.


Dr. D. Percy Hickling, chairman of the Physicians' Committee, has established ambulance stations throughout the line of march, and will have hospitals set up on the Union Station Plaza and on the park south of the Treasury Department.


A public banquet will take place Saturday evening at Convention Hall, with President Taft, distinguished members of the Hierarchy and distinguished public men in attendance. Knights may secure banquet tickets at Room 708 Woodward Building.


Sunday Evening, June 9th. Grand Sacred Concert at Convention Hall, under auspices of Citizens' Committee. Music by the entire United States Marine Band and a Symphony Orchestra of sixty pieces.





Material in the Washingtoniana Collection of the Martin Luther King Library in Washington, D.C. provides further details on the three-day celebration accompanying the unveiling of the Columbus memorial in 1912. The following information is summarized, or in some cases quoted, from a small card (approx. 3?1/2" x 6") apparently made available to the thousands of Knights of Columbus participating in the weekend celebration events.


Fri Jun 7


7 p.m. Illumination and floral parade on Pennsylvania Avenue

8 p.m. Reception by the Citizens Reception Committee of DC for visiting Knights of Columbus and their ladies at the National Museum [now the National Museum of Natural History]


Sat Jun 8


3 p.m. Parade: 17th and Pennsylvania east to 2nd St., North to F St., E to the Union Station platform for the unveiling.

2:30 - 3 p.m. Concert by the Marine Band

Upon arrival by the parade at the platform, the unveiling ceremony commences. Following the ceremony, the parade proceeds to Stanton Square past the reviewing stand, thence south on 4th St. to E. Capitol St., where it disbands. Coupons, available at the K. of C. Hall for $1.00 or $1.50 each, are required for the reserved seating in the reviewing stand directly opposite the President's stand.

8 p.m. Banquet in the Convention Hall at $10 each. "The President, his Cabinet, Foreign Ambassadors, and other dignitaries will be present."

8:30 p.m. Another illumination of Pennsylvania Avenue, and fireworks at the Washington Monument grounds.


Sun Jun 9


4 p.m. Solemn vespers at the Franciscan Monastery, followed by receptions at Catholic University and Trinity College.

8 p.m. Marine Band concert in Convention Hall. Tickets 50c each.


Mon Jun 10


3:30 p.m. Annual Charity Baseball Game between the Fraternal Order of Eagles and th e Knights of Columbus at American league Park. Proceeds to St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum. Tickets 25 cents and 50 cents.

8 p.m. Reception by the D.C. Knights of Columbus to His Excellency, Msgr. John Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate to the U.S., in the K. of C. Hall

































Above: map showing parade route, drawn based uupon contents of souvenir materials distributed to participants


National Christopher Columbus Association - 5034 Wisconsin Avenue, NW - Washington, D.C. 20016-4125