Brownielocks and The 3 Bears

The History or Meaning behind

patriotic symbols banner

Statue of liberty  Uncle Sam animation

It is with national pride I create this page about America's Patriotic Symbols.  Since I live near D.C. I spent one entire summer taking the metro train into Washington  every weekend to see all it has to offer.  I did it weekend by weekend,  but I saw it all...every monument, building and museum!   Most are free!  The only thing I haven't done yet is attend an inauguration.  Why? The weather is always so bad!  I've seen everything on this page except Arlington Cemetery and  the Statue of Liberty.

Below are Fast Fowards  to click to get to specific areas on this page.

Arlington Cemetery



Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

Great Seal

Korean War Memorial

Liberty Bell

Lincoln Memorial

Memorial Day

Mount Rushmore

National Mall

Pledge of Allegiance

Star Spangled Banner

Statue of Liberty

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Uncle Sam

United States Flag

Vietnam Veterans  Memorial

Washington Monument

White House

World War II Memorial (with photos)

Yankee Doodle

The United States Flag

In 1775, the American colonies were flying the British Flag called "The Union Jack" and decided that they needed to fly their own flag.  Benjamin Franklin was the "New Flag" Committee chairman.  He didn't want to totally shut off their connection to England, so he felt the flag should have a smaller Union Jack in one corner, with 6 white stripes alternating with 7 red stripes.  This flag was hoisted on New Years Day (January 1) in 1776 on Prospect Hill near Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It became known as the Grand Union Flag and was the first American flag.

But...once the Declaration of Independence was signed this flag became literally history and as they say today, 'not politically correct.'  What to do?  Well it took an act of Congress on 6-14-1777 to pass an official Flag Resolution stating the design of the flag with the red and white strips and the 13 stars in a blue.  Now they had problems with just how many points on a star. Some had 5 some had more.  And some of the stars were in rows, some in circles and some were haphazard.  Then they had to argue over which came first...a red stripe or a white stripe?  After a while it became obvious that the flag could be seen from a longer distance better if it had a red stripe first and not a white one.

There is no proof that Betsy Ross actually sewed the first flag. Several men approached her for a flag design, but that doesn't mean she sewed it. Betsy suggested a 5 pointed star because she demonstrated how easy they were to make when you fold cloth a certain way and cut. An actual bill for the design of the flag was presented to Congress by Francis Hopkinson (who also is one of the signer's of the Declaration of Independence) asking for payment for designing this flag.  Congress denied his request saying he wasn't the sole designer. Some historians feel the flag was designed by a committee.

As America changed, so did the flag.  Every time we got a new state, we also got a new star.  Well, the stars were no problem, but after a while, we were getting over-striped. Imagine today if we had 50 stripes and stars?  So, on January 13, 1794, Congress passed a second flag resolution stating "the flag shall have 15 stripes, alternate red and white with a union of 15 stars, white on blue field." It was the 15 striped flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner."

But, by 1817 the flag was getting bigger and bigger and had 20 stars and stripes. So once again Congress did a Flag Act in 1818 and decided that the flag should have no more than 13 red and white stripes (for the 13 original colonies), and only a NEW STAR would be added every time we got a state, but no more stripes of any color.  

And then came the Civil War!  Many angry Northerners wanted to remove the stars of the states that had succeeded from the union.  But President Lincoln disagreed and was determined to hold the Union together. From 1861-1865 Union troops marched under a flag with all the stars and stripes.  And in 1863, when West Virginia became a state during the Civil War, they even added it's star.  Well, we all know how the war ended, and eventually both the North and the South were flying the same flag with the same number of stars and stripes.

On June 14, 1923 men from 68 patriotic groups met in Washington, DC to draw up a set of rules on how to handle the flag.  In 1942, Congress put them all into the official Flag Code.  The flag code is updated when necessary, most recently being 1976.

Flag Terms:
Canton - The top inner quarter of the flag or the blue area where the stars are.
Field - The main body of the flag.
Fly - The bottom or length of the flag
Halyard: The rope or cord used to raise and lower the flag.
Hoist - The flag's side or width.


To Sing "It's A Grand Ol' Flag" + Learn about Flag Day
+ See some pictures on how the flag is sewn etc.

The Eagle

It took 6 years of arguing by our forefathers to come up with a national emblem. We all know how Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey, because the turkey was a domestic, useful and tasty.  But the turkey wasn't impressive enough for most of our forefathers. On the other hand, many other nations were using eagles also.  But Benjamin Franklin pointed out, "the eagle is a bird of bad moral character" because he was a scavenger that stole food from other birds.  

So a compromised was reached in 1782 and Congress chose the BALD EAGLE, rather than the Golden Eagle (most commonly used by other countries) because the Bald Eagle was unique to North America and not used by other countries, while still having impressive nobility.  Due to land mismanagement and other factors, the Bald Eagle population was almost extinct. In 1940 Congress passed a law forbidding the capture or killing of bald eagles.  Since that time, with the banning of DDT in 1973 and other conservation acts, the Bald Eagle has made a comeback in America.

The Great Seal

The Great Seal of the United States is a round piece of metal cast on both sides.  It was first commissioned by Congress after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The final design was approved on June 20, 1782.

The Secretary of State keeps it for use on official documents (but only if the President order it.)  The front of the seal is the Bald Eagle, wings spread, with a shield of the US on his chest.  The shield has 13 red and white stripes for the 13 original colonies.  The shield stands on the eagle's chest with no support to represent that the US relies on itself, it's own virtue, for right and justice. The top of the shield is a horizontal blue stripe that represents Congress.  And in one of the eagle's talons he holds an olive branch for peace.  In the other it clutches arrows for war.  In the beak is a ribbon with the inscription, "E pluribus unum" meaning "From many, one."   This was to mean, from many states come one nation.  Above the eagle's head is a circular cloud filled with 13 5-pointed stars to mean "a glory" or breaking through a cloud.

The back of the seal has a 13 layer pyramid, once again to represent the 13 original colonies. The stone of the pyramid is to represent lasting strength. And on the bottom is MDCCLXXVI  for 1776 (The date of the Declaration of Independence.)  So what does that big eye on the pyramid mean?  It is to represent the all-seeing eye of Divine Providence.  Above the pyramid are the latin words "Annuit coeptis --" He [God] has favored our undertaking." And at the bottom of the pyramid are the words "Novus ordo seclorum - A new order of the ages [is created]."

The Liberty Bell

In 1751 the Pennsylvania Assembly bought a big bell for the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the colonies. So, 9 months later the bell was unloaded in the State House yard.  There was tons of excitement and people came to hear the majestic ring.  And then the clapper struck and....gasp!  Rather than hearing a wonderful tone they heard a CLANK!  and saw a huge wide crack on the bell.  John Pass and John Stow said they could fix it.  So they broke the bell into pieces, melted it down and recast it (adding some more copper for more strength).  In March 1753 the new and improved bell was ready!  Once again the crowds gathered, the people hushed and waited anxiously to hear their wonderful bell tone.  But what they heard didn't bong, it well clunked.  So Pass and Stow went back to the fixing the bell, only this time after melting it down they added more tin to help the ton. It was recast again (sigh) and on June 7, 1753 the crowd gathered, etc. and this time the tone was better but well it didn't meet the people's expectations.  It was rung from the State House and petitions from those that didn't like the sound were ignored.

The inscription on the Liberty Bell reads "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land unto ALl the Inhabitants Thereof. Leviticus XXV:X".  This gained significant meaning during the Revolutionary War when the new Declaration of Independence was ratified at the Pennsylvania State House the bell rung on July 8, 1776.

The Bell was also hidden during the Revolutionary War under a floor in a church in a nearby town to protect it from British troops who would destroy it or melt it down for ammunition.  When the British left, the bell was returned and rung every July 4 (and on special occasions). 

When the Capitol of the U.S. moved to Washington, D.C. the bell stayed in Philadelphia.  On July 8, 1835, when it was rung in remembrance of the death of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, it cracked again!   People were upset.  The Philadelphia City Council was ready to toss this bell in the garbage and order a new one.   The reason it did not happen is because of money...not for a new bell.  But it was more expensive to haul the old one away.  So the bell sort of hung around for years without being rung, until...

1846 when a newspaperman remembered this bell and said it should be rung to celebrate George Washington's birthday.  The bell got famous again - crack and all.  People now called it "The Liberty Bell" and the crack was drilled and widened to keep the edges from vibrating.  On February 22, 1846 [George Washington's birthday] it began to ring again.

But this bell is just meant to be cracked.  By that afternoon the crack widened more.  It was now totally useless as a bell to ring. So the clapper was removed.  By this time the United States was nearing it's 100th Anniversary and people sentimental about anything connected with our nation's history.  The Pennsylvania State House was now being called Independence Hall.  And the Liberty Bell was placed there on display.

On January, 1976 as part of our nations Bi-centennial celebration, the bell was moved to it's own glass pavilion across from the Hall.  Does the bell still ring?  Indeedy!  For special occasions and The 4th of July  it is gently tapped with a mallot and freedom rings in America in a subtle but serious way still today.

The Star Spangled Banner

This is most commonly known as the song 99% of Americans don't have the quality of voice to sing.  And many often wonder why we choose , as our National Anthem, a tune in which most of us end up screeching our heads of to sing!  Who came up with this and why?

First of all this wasn't written during the Revolutionary War which most people think. It was written during the War of 1812 - a different conflict between the US and British.  On September 13, 1814, Fort McHenry's (Maryland) flag was whipping around in the breeze while it was being attacked by the British (16 ships I hear tell).  On the deck of the H.M.S. Tonnant in the Chesapeake Bay stood Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer.  He had come aboard with Colonel J.S. Skinner to get the release of Dr. William Beanes, an old doctor the British were holding captive.  They managed to get Dr. Beanes released by proving he medically took care of both British and American soldiers. And while they were on this ship, they happened to overhear chit chat about British plans to invade Baltimore.  So, all three of them suddenly were detained (but not really imprisoned)  on this ship  until the end of the battle so they could not go back and tell of what they heard.

The first shot towards Fort McHenry was fired on September 13 at 6:00 am (dawns early light?) It was non-stop.  All day long Key and his companions watched this battle. At night, Key paced the decks as he watched bad ammunition explode in mid-air before it reached their targets (causing brief moments of light in which Key could see that the American flag was still flying!).  Then it began to rain and Key couldn't see anything. They all sat and waited and felt that as long as it was noisy, the battle wasn't over.  The Americans were still fighting back!  So guess what happened in the morning when suddenly it was quiet?  FOG!  So who won?  When the fog finally cleared and the sun rose in the sky, the 3 men looked out and saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry.  The British were running!!

Inspired with joy, Francis Scott Key took out an envelope (from a letter he had started and never finished) and put down his feelings in a poem.  He worked on it during his boat ride back to shore, and in his hotel room that night.  The next day he brought a copy of the poem (all 4 verses) to his brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, who immediately sent it to a printer and asked that copies be distributed throughout the city.  The poem was titled "Defense of Fort McHenry" with a hint that if you wanted to sing it, it would go to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven"  a popular song of the time. (OK, if that tune is the hottest hit of 1814, imagine what the rest of the music waslike back then?)  On September 20, 1814 the poem was in the Baltimore newspaper.  The song caught on and everyone was singing it...probably badly but it's the spirit that counts.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that "The Star-Spangled Banner" (as it had come to be know by then but I don't know how) would be played at all state occasions.  I am not sure how it became a tradition prior to all ball games?  But in 1931 Congress declared it our National Anthem.  And what about that flag that Key kept seeing? Where is it?  It is in the Smithsonian Museum.

Yankee Doodle

Is there anyone who doesn't know the tune, "Yankee Doodle?"  It has become the unofficial tune for the United States for every 4th of July Parade. But it's a silly name, isn't it?  So how did it all begin?

"Yankee" is a familiar name for the Dutch name Jan.  
(like Johnny is for John.)

The Dutch, who settled in New York, used the Dutch term to describe the English settlers of Connecticut, who had a reputation at the time as people who were more interested in making money than behaving morally.  

A "doodle" was a simpleton or foolish person.


A British doctor named, Dr. Richard Shuckburg, who was serving in the American colonies, is believed to be the person who wrote the lyrics to the tune.

Stuck a feather in his hat  -   is assumed to be a mocking statement to the Yankee's attempts to appear stylish and European whey they were quite 'uncivilized folk.'

Macaroni - was symbolic of all things Italian and in 18th century England the term was used to mean a fop = someone who dressed Italian.  
The British seemed to make fun of how everyone else dressed, notice?

Some people say the tune, however, was derived from a children's slave song  from Surinam on the South American coast.  And that American's liked the tune so much, they adapted the melody with their own words during the Revolutionary War. It was catchy and easy to whistle too.  (considering they didn't have many musical instruments to carry along during battle.)

"Yankee Doodle" was first sung publicly at an Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia in 1977 and quickly grew to become a 4th of July tradition.  A more popular tune based on this is George M. Cohan's "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy."

To hear both the traditional "Yankee Doodle" plus George M. Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and sing-along visit our Yankee Doodle Animation page.

Uncle Sam

Most people think of Uncle Sam as that ugly old guy with a top hat, long white beard and an obnoxious finger pointing in your face wearing a suit that is stars and stripes.  So is he real?  There are debates among scholars.  One belief is that there was a man named Sam Wilson in an area known today as Arlington, Massachusetts on September 13, 1766.  There were 13 kids in the family -- he was number 7.  The entire family was patriotic.  In 1789, (age 23) he moved to Troy, NY and started a meat-packing business.  He was tall, lean but no beard, yet he stood out in a crowd.  Many of his siblings, their spouses and kids lived in the area also.  So he became known as "Uncle Sam" to all his nieces and nephews.  Sam supplied pork and beef to the army during the War of 1812.  He also became a meat inspector.  So the barrels of meat he inspected personally and also those from his factory at first "U.States" for United States.  Later, just US.  But many of the workers were confused, and so when asked what the initials on the meat stood for they said, "Uncle Sam" Wilson, since it was his company.  This soon became a common joke.  And soldier's began calling themselves (who were eating his meat) Uncle Sam's Army.  Soon, all gov't property was stamped with U.S. and termed "Uncle Sam's."  And today the term Uncle Sam is the conglomerate for all government property or the entire government itself.

The cartoon image of Uncle Sam with his red, white and blue suit and hat, tall thin, with a beard did not appear until 1830.  Since Sam Wilson did not have a beard, some say that the beard is from Lincoln.  Congress adopted Uncle Sam as an official symbol in 1961.  Some claim that the Uncle Sam costume as we know it today was created by Dan Rice, a clown in the 1840's, who also walked on stilts.  But Uncle Sam's look was actually derived from two earlier figures in American culture: Brother Jonathan and Yankee Doodle.  Both figures were used off and on, mostly by political cartoonists from the early 1830's to 1861.  The first established and well published political cartoonist was Thomas Nast, beginning in the 1870's.  Nast gave him his chin with whiskers.  The most famous image of Uncle Sam, however is the Army Recruiting poster, painted by James Montgomery Flagg during World War I.  That's the one with Uncle Sam looking right at you with his finger pointed saying, "I Want You!"  It worked. ;)

Recently, the Uncle Sam image has been criticized as a misrepresentation of what the American culture is today and the diversity of nationalities and cultures.  But in 1961 Congress passed a special resolution accepting "Uncle Sam" Wilson  of Troy, New York as the namesake behind Uncle Sam.  His birthday, September 13 has been proclaimed "Uncle Sam Day" in New York State.


The Pledge of Allegiance

In 1888 a magazine called The Youth Companion urged it's young readers to send in pennies to buy United States flags for their schools.  It was such a success that 30,000 flags were purchased.  As the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America approached in 1892, school children across the nation were anxious to celebrate at the same time.  But how?  They were to raise their newly purchased flags and then what? So, James Upham, head of the circulation for the magazine asked Frances E. Bellamy, a staff member, to write a flag salute that all the kids could say at the same time.  He wrote:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands ---
one Nation indivisible -- with liberty and justice for all.

This new "Pledge of Allegiance" was published in The Youth's Companion  on September 8, 1892.  Leaflets containing the pledge were sent out to schools.  President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed that it be used for the Columbus Day observance.  Soon it became a regular school routine throughout America.

In 1923, The First National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C. decided to change the first line to read: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States."  It was at this time they also decided that citizens would place their right hand over their heart while saying it.  At the second National Flag Conference the next year, they added "of America."  And in 1942 Congress officially adopted the Flag Code.  The 50-year old vow was made an official vow of loyalty to America.

In 1943 the Supreme Court ruled that no one could be forced to say this if they didn't want to, because it would infringe on their freedom  of speech.  In 1954, Congress added "Under God" to the pledge.  And this is how the pledge is today:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

To hear our Pledge of Allegiance, you might enjoy these pages:

Pledge of Allegiance by Red Skelton
Pledge of Allegiance by John Wayne

The Statue of Liberty

France gave us the Statue of Liberty. But why?  In 1865, France felt that it needed to show some support over the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.  And so at a dinner party it was discussed that a monument would be a good example.  At this party was Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a sculptor.  He made a small clay model of a women representing liberty in 1870.  Then in 1871 he traveled to the US and saw Bedloe Island in Upper New York Bay, where the star-shaped Fort Wood was.  He felt this was the spot for his statue!  So, in 1875 France began raising money for this statue.  And in 1876 Bartholdi began constructing it in a studio in sections.  His mother's face inspired the head, but the model and later his wife's {Jeanne-Emilie Baheux de Puysieux} body was the inspiration for the rest of it.  

The statue was taller than a 14 story building.  It had to be constructed outside.  Bartholdi made plaster models in different sizes and then carpenters made wooden molds. Copper sheets were placed into these molds and shaped and hammered into the womanly figure it was suppose to be.  Then these penny thin copper shapes were riveted into their proper places on an iron framework designed by Alexandre-Gustav Eiffel, more popularly known for designing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

On August 5, 1884 a 6-ton granite block was laid on Bedloe Island within the 5-star shaped walls that remained of Fort Wood.  The block was the cornerstone for the statue's pedestal.  The Statue arrived in the New York harbor in June 1885.  And it was slowly put together. In order to get the flame to shine, two rows of holes were cut and covered with glass plates so that an electric light could shine through.   On October 28, 1886 President Grover Cleveland was to dedicate the statue.

At that time, women were commonly excluded from public events, esp. if important. Well the suffragette movement didn't take this too well.  Some of the more aggressive women rented boats and sailed near the island and shouted, disrupting speeches.  Their issue is that the statue being honored is of a woman, and yet if she were alive and real, she'd be unable to attend the event and unable to vote in the US or France.

When the veil was taken and away and the statue revealed many were in awe and it became instantly popular.  She was nicknamed "Lady Liberty."  In 1924 the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island were declared a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge.  In 1965 Ellis Island became a part of the Statue of Liberty Monument.

From 1984 to 1986 Lady Liberty got a make-over, face-lift or renovated as some call it. All iron was replaced with stainless steel in her interior and the old flame was totally replaced with a new copper one with gold plating.

Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty are words from Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus" with the last words the most popular:

Give me your tired,
your poor,
Your huddled masses
yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse
of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless,
the tempest-tost, to me,
I lift my lamp beside
the golden door!

Mount Rushmore

Sculptor John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, was carving an panorama of heroes of the South on what is now known as Stone Mountain in Georgia.  He went to the Black Hills in 1925 after being asked  by Doane Robinson, Secretary of the S.D. Historical Society if he would carve something for South Dakota to help lure tourism in.  He saw Mt. Rushmore and felt he found the perfect spot.   He decided to carve four presidents as follows:

Washington - For role in creating the Constitution
Jefferson - For The Declaration of Independence &
Louisiana Purchase
Lincoln - For leading the country through the Civil War
Theodore Roosevelt - For his part in making the Panama Canal linking 2 oceans

Of all 4, Roosevelt is the most controversial because he had been dead only 6 years and many felt his contributions were not that impressive to justify being a monument. But in 1927, President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the memorial and chipping began.

There were gripes all over the place over this.  The Sioux Indians felt the sculpture which was on their sacred grounds was a sacrilege.  Other felt it would be one big eyesore. And other felt it would be environmentally unsound.  And then we have those who originally wanted the carving to go to the waists of the presidents.  But that changed when the granite towards the lower part of the mountain proved to be unsuitable for carving. Borglum didn't do all the carving, however.   The work was difficult, dangerous, tedious and hard.  But fortunately no one was killed or permanently injured.  Workers all had to work from special leather seats and were hanging on ropes.  Dynamite removed a lot of stone, but drills and pneumatic hammers were also used.  Imagine the noise!!

The work was tedious and didn't allow room for errors.  It took 14 years to make Mt. Rushmore with it's 4 presidential faces and a total of half a million tons of granite removed from that mountain.

The first to be finished was George Washington as of July 4, 1930.
The second was Thomas Jefferson on August 30, 1936.
The third was Abraham Lincoln on September 17, 1937.
And last was Theodore Roosevelt on July 2, 1939.
And on Halloween (October 31) in 1941 work was considered all done officially on that mountain.

However, it's not over until the last stone is unchipped. Today, nearby in the Black Hills another monument is being carved to pay tribute to the Native Americans. It is a huge image of Oglala Sioux chief Crazy Horse, mounted and riding into the wind.  As of right now, only his head is finished.  The sculptor is Korczak Ziolkowski.  Below is a photo of Crazy Horse Mountain:

All rights to this photo belong to CNN and not this domain.

The White House

The most well-known address in this country is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,  Washington, D.C. where the White House is located and home of the President.  Every single President of the United States has lived here, except the first one, George Washington. The reason is, it wasn't done in time for George and Martha to live in it. It didn't get finished until November 1, 1800. (Note: Before George Washington, there were Presidents of the Continental Congress who didn't live in the house either.  I'm just referring to those who  were titled, President of the United States.)

It was designed by a French architect Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant in 1791.   But, in 1792, Thomas Jefferson decided that a contest should be held for the design, with a prize of $500 to the winner.  There were 9 entries.  The winner was a young architect named James Hoban from S. Carolina.   Mr. Hoban was smart enough to do research before coming up with a design.  He learnt what Washington liked and even discovered that many guests frequently gathered in a circle around the man.  Thus, the inspiration for the "Oval Room."  The White House was the first major building in Washington, D.C.

Construction started on 10-13-1792 by laying the traditional cornerstone.  For the next 8 years work continued, with slave labor as part of the contribution to the work.  When winter came they were afraid water would freeze and cause the stones to break. So they sealed each stone with a whitewash, creating a stunning white house.

The first President to actually live in the White House was John Adams, with the house for the most part done except the living quarters.  It wasn't upgraded like the rest of the place and was cold, lacking furniture and servants had to carry water from a nearby spring 1.5 miles (because it lacked a well).  The yard was also not landscaped and a swamp.  The Adams were not thrilled to live here.

On August 24, 1814 (War of 1812) British soldiers invaded Washington, D.C.  President James Madison and his wife had to flee...but they managed to rescue the Declaration of Independence and the portrait of George Washington (painted by Gilbert Stuart) first.  The British set the house on fire and other surrounding buildings.  As it happened, it rained!  And that rescued the White House from burning down totally, but it was extremely damaged.  On March of 1814 the renovation began.  It was completed in 1817.  And the entire building was whitewashed again to cover the smoke damage this time.  And it now got the nick name of being "The White House."  In 1901 President Theodore Roosevelt made the nickname official when he had it engraved on his stationery.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt modernized the kitchen and added an indoor swimming pool for his own physical therapy in the 1930's.  But the place did not have much fixing up.  And in 1948 it was in desperate need of repair.  Some wanted to tear it down and start again.  Others felt it was history and needed to be restored. So, the entire White House was gutted and the inside redone.  Rooms grew from 62 to 132 and fireproofing had also been included.

President Truman added the balcony.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy refurnished it in the 1960's.
President Lydon B. Johnson in 1964 set up the Committe for the Preservation for the White House.

The White House sits on 18 acres of land.  The second floor is where the President lives, and some offices and guest rooms. The third floor has staff rooms, more guests and a solarium.  The ground floor has closets, the kitchen, the china room and a library. It also has formal rooms open to the public such as: The Oval Room, The Blue Room, The Red Room,  and The State Dining Room.

You enter the White House four ways:  The North Door is on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and is used for State Visitors, family and friends.  The South Door is for high government officials and foreign diplomats.  The West Door is for the President and his staff only.  The East Door is for the public

The Capitol

People often confuse the Capitol with the White House.  What is the difference?  The White House is the residence of the President.  The Capitol is where the Congress of the United States meets to govern this land.  It contains the Senate and the House of Representatives = Congress!   A few years ago, during the "live impeachment trial" for President Bill Clinton, the American public actually got to see Congress in action at the Capitol!  Today, due television networks the american public can see the Capitol and congress  right in the own living rooms.

But who designed it and how did it all begin?

Once again, just like with the White House  Pierre L'Enfant, city designer, and President George Washington selected a location, known as Jenkins Hill (today known as Capitol Hill).  And just like the White House, a contest was held to determine the best design with the prize being again...$500.  The winner this time was William Thornton, a doctor and amateur architect from Philadelphia, PA.  So on September 18, 1793 George Washington laid the cornerstone and construction began.  But....the War of 1812 put a halt to it in 1814 when British troops invaded Washington, D.C. burning the Capitol.  It would have been totally gone if it were not for that miraculous rainstorm that happened!  Rebuilding it took several years, during that time Congress met in other building.

Charles Bullfinch was supervisor of the reconstruction.  And after 5 years, Congress moved back in, but into a totally finished building.  That didn't happen until 1829.  But, as the nation kept growing, so did Congress (more Senators and Representatives) and so the building became too small.  In 1850, new extensions to the wings were approved.  And in 1851 the cornerstone was laid to enlarge the Capitol.

The problem however was that by enlarging the Capitol, the dome was now looking a bit too small and out of proportion to the rest of the structure.  Congress voted to build a much bigger dome.  Designer Thomas U. Walter came up with a larger cast iron dome.  Construction began but was halted during the Civil War, during which time the Capitol was used as a hospital and army barracks (with a kitchen and bakery in the basement).   President Lincoln was criticized for continuing with the Capitol Dome replacement as too expensive during the Civil War.  But Lincoln felt that it needed to be done as a symbol that  the Union would soon be united under one central government.

On December 2, 1863  the sculptor Thomas Crawford's "Freedom" statue of a 19.5 foot, 15,000 lb.  woman was raised  on top of the new Capitol dome. Many ask who is she? Actually, she is a symbol of human freedom based on ancient Greek and Roman models.  (Using the image of a female to represent freedom was powerful in Western culture.)  Originally, Crawford's design had a woman wearing the Phrygian cap. In Roman times, this cap was worn by formerly enslaved people as a sign of the new free status.  But, Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, vetoed the use of the cap in the figure, claiming that it wasn't proper for a country whose citizens had never been enslaved (Well, those who were citizens in 1855. Remember this is before the Civil War!)  Davis was a bit hypocritical because he owned slaves on his Mississippi plantation.  And abolitionists were already using this cap in their illustrations denouncing slavery.

But, Crawford obeyed Jefferson Davis's objections and redesigned the headgear on the statue as a helmet crested with stars and an eagle's head and feathers.  This look has caused many visitors for years to think that the statue on the top is an American Indian. (Note: Crawford only got to create a plaster model.  He died in 1857 before it left his studio.  The next year, however, it was packed into six crates and sent off and arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1859.  In 1860 the statue was cast by Clark Mills' foundry into bronze.  Ironically, the man who supervised the casting was Philip Reid, an enslaved worker of Clark Mills. But, he worked hard, including Sundays.  He worked 33 days at $1.25 a day, but was ONLY paid for his work on Sundays, giving him a payment of $41.25.)

In 1870 all the extensions were done on The Capitol and the building looks much like it does today.  Inside the dome is known as the Rotunda and is decorated with statues of famous Americans, artwork of great American events and a fresco on the dome's inside.  Some call this a true symbol "of the people, by the people and for the people" as Lincoln described it.

The Capitol Police

As a sub-topic under The Capitol, I'd like to briefly mention the history of the United States Capitol Police.  This group goes back over 200 years!  In 1801 there was a Commissioner of Public Buildings.  Congress approved that he be allowed to hire one guard to "take as much care as possible of the property of the United States."  By 1827,  President John Quincy Adams declared that the Capitol Police force be  four men, because of two events: (1) Marquis de Lafayette visited (2) There was a little fire in the Library of Congress.

1828 is considered the official year the Capitol Police were founded. On May 2, 1828, the City of Washington's police (not the District of Columbia) were given the added responsibility of protecting the Capitol building and grounds.  The stimulus was an incident in which President John Quincy Adam's son was accosted and beaten.

Thirty years later, it became apparent that a larger force was needed. In 1854 officers now wore official uniforms, and carried heavy hickory canes.  By 1861, when the Civil War began, the capitol police wore badges.

In 1868, the Senate Sergeants at Arms and the Architect of the Capitol joined to create the Capitol Police Board: One Captain, Three Lieutenants, Twenty-seven Privates and Eight Watchmen.

Through the years and into the new millennium, various acts of violence and terrorism threats have clearly shown a need for a professional police force trained to handle threats (domestic and international).  As various capitol bombing incidents happened in 1915, 1971 and 1983, greater security measures were set up.  The events of September 11, 2001 solidified this all too well.

The National Mall

This is most commonly known as the gathering place for organized celebrations like the annual 4th of July Fireworks in Washington, D.C. as well as protests for causes.  Although the original intention of the mall was to be a park called The National Mall.

Once again we go back to the city designer, Pierre Charles L'Enfant under George Washington, who planned to  turn this swampy ground around the Capitol into an area with greenery, etc. Unfortunately, his plans fell through as Washington, D.C. grew and railroad lines, a polluted canal and shanties sprung up in the area.  The mall was a mess and an eyesore.  In 1902, Senator James McMillan, developed a plan to improve it.   He moved the railroad, relocated some monuments, cleaned up all the garbage and pollution and hired a bunch of landscapers.  Slowly the place improved.

Today it's a big open space, surrounded by park benches (I've been there several times) and metro entrances because parking is so bad. :(    All the museums are along the edge and it's pretty big.  If you go there, be prepared to walk!   Also, watch the ground for dog stuff because people exercise their dogs there a lot.  And there are only a few public bathrooms, located in a few museums, one of which is the Smithsonian and the Museum of Natural History. The closest monument to the Mall is the Viet Nam Memorial.  

The Washington Monument

This monument is best known for being that tall pointy building that sticks up out of the ground. What it is geometrically is  known as an obelisk.  If you ever go there on a perfect day, it also is like one giant sundial when it casts it's shadow over the area around it.

George Washington died on December 14, 1799.  The idea to have a monument to him came in 1783, before he even became a president.  The reason was he was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and was much admired for his character.  But as we know today with proposed WWII memorials etc., wanting one and paying for one are two different things.  This was the problem with the Washington Memorial.  During the next 34 years. many monuments were planned and discussed, but none actually made it to even having one shovel dug to start the project.

Then in 1836 the Washington Monument Society held a contest (do you see a pattern here with all these contests?)  for designing the memorial.  I don't know if the prize was $500 like the others were, but I assume so.  The winner this time was Robert Mills, an architect whose plan was to have a grandiose obelisk building  (4-sided pillar)  filled  inside with statues and paintings.   And it would be  an impressive 500 feet tall!

Land was set aside, but the design had changes by many architects until it was simplified to what we know it today.  On July 4, 1848 the cornerstone was laid.  But donations were asked for and funds were insufficient.  Work slowed and then stopped in 1854.  The half-done monument was somewhat of an embarrassment because it stood in plain view to anyone who came to town. And cows grazed around it during the Civil War.

In 1876 the Washington National Monument Society turned the project over to the government to complete.  On December 6, 1884 a solid aluminum capstone was laid.  And on February 21, 1885 the monument was finally dedicated, but not open to the public. It took 3 years for the public to be able to see it.  On October 9, 1888 the worlds highest masonry structure of 555 feet  5   1/8   inches  and 55 feet   1.5 inches wide (tapering to 34 feet   5.5 inches at the top) was open for the American people!   They had 897 steps to climb to the observance room but don't fret...visitors really use the elevator. ;)

The monument consists of 192 special memorial stones (on the interior walls)  donated by private citizens, organizations and countries to honor George Washington.   Although it took years to get it built, after years it began to show wear.  So in 1998 renovation began on the monument.  It was completed in 2000.  Some feel that this monument stands as a simple memorial to a man who preferred the simple things in life.

The Lincoln Memorial

Abraham Lincoln was a Congressman  in 1848 who supported the George Washington Memorial.  He later became the 16th president of the United States, during one of the worst times in our nation's history, The Civil War.  He was assassinated 5 days after the Civil War ended by an actor named John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.  He died on April 15, 1865.  The assassination shook the world.

Discussion on what kind of memorial to do began. New York architect Henry Bacon modeled the memorial in the style of a Greek temple. The classic design features 36 Doric columns outside, symbolizing the states in the Union at Lincoln's death.  I don't know if Mr. Bacon won a contest (like the others) and if he got $500.  This time it doesn't say a word about that. ;)

 On February 19, 1911 the Lincoln Memorial Bill was signed by President William Howard Taft.   On February 12, 1914, (and February 12 is Lincoln's Birthday?)  work began.

The Lincoln Memorial is big!  It is at the West End of the mall (with the Viet Nam Memorial below it) and the Korean War Memorial to it's left (if you stand facing it.)
The memorial is nearly 80 feet tall, 188 feet long and 118 feet wide.  It has 36 huge marble columns (each represent the states at the time Lincoln died).  State names  and the dates they entered the Union are carved above each pillar.  Above the columns are carved the names of the 48 states at the time the memorial was dedicated.  Later, a plaque was added to included Alaska and Hawaii.

The columns are not perfectly straight.  Ironically, they are made slightly crooked to avoid the optical illusion that they would look crooked.  The floor is pink marble from Tennessee and the ceiling is thick white marble from Alabama and soaked in paraffin, which allows some light to shine through.

Daniel Chester French designed the huge statue that sits in the Main chamber.  It is 19 feet tall  on a pedestal that is 11 feet high.   Engraved on the North side is Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, along with a mural by Jules Guerin titled  Reunion.  The South wall is engraved with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. And above it another Guerin mural titled Emancipation.  Stars lead down to a gallery on the building's south side that contain photos and portraits of Lincoln.  

The Lincoln Memorial is owned by the Potomac Park, a part of the US Park Service and is maintained by them.  It's quiet marble halls give  it's more than 1 million visitors a year a chance to reflect.  

And, I mean no disrespect to Mr. Lincoln, but since I've been there I'd also like to say that all those steps are a nice chance to sit and relax your feet from walking all over the Mall, and visiting monuments.  And underneath the steps on the left is a door that leads to a public bathroom.  This is not mentioned in visitor's tours so I wanted to share that for those that might visit.  It is important to know!

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Memorial Wall photo

The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is probably the most visited memorial today? Notice it is not called The Vietnam War Memorial. The reason is, Vietnam was never a declared war.  It was, and still is today, the Vietnam Conflict. And yet it represents a war that most people did not support and was very unpopular at the time.  It all began with a wounded Vietnam Veteran named Jan Scruggs.  He began the Viet Nam memorial fund with money he earned by selling some property.  This memorial was 100% paid for by public donations and no tax payer money at all!

On July 1, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill authorizing the building of the memorial near the Lincoln Memorial in Constitution Gardens.  

Once again...a contest was held for the best design.  Only this time the prize wasn't $500 it was $20,000.  The rules were open except these:

1.  The memorial HAD to contain all the names of all the Americans that lost their lives or were MIA's (missing in action) in Viet Nam.
2. It had to harmonize with it's location.
3. It can't make a political statement about the war, but must honor those who served.

Unlike the past where only a few entries were submitted, this memorial had 1,421 designs submitted.  The winner was surprisingly first of all a woman...not a man.  And the woman was a 21-year old Asian-American from Yale.  Her design was really a homework assignment and her teacher gave her a "B".  Ha!   

The design is simple  deep V and is a stone wall that cuts into the small hill of land. The wall is nearly 500 feet long made from black Indian granite.  The names, which were sandblasted (not carved) into the granite are not listed alphabetically.  They are listed chronologically in the order they became a casualty of the Viet Nam war.  Beside each name is either a Cross or a Diamond.  A diamond signifies death.  A cross means they are MIA's.  What to do if a MIA is discovered alive?  Or is later proven dead?  The cross can be later changed to a Diamond if discovered dead.  Or if the person is found alive, then a Circle is drawn around the Cross.

Some people feel that at the time of the design, Maya Ying Lin had no way to know that her wall would do so much to help heal this nation and some of the Veterans or families that visit.  The wall's dark black granite also reflects the sun and land around it.  But it also reflects the images of the faces of those who are living (and visit) on those who have died.  For many this is spiritual.  And if you view it from the air and see the "V" shape, many feel that it also creates a sign of "Victory" over either death, communism,  or oppression in general.  It's all personal interpretation to each person who comes.

An estimated 15,000 attended the Memorial Dedication in November of 1982.  

Many also felt that besides the wall, figures of soldiers needed to be there. So, in 1984 a 7 foot statue of 3 soldiers designed by Frederick Hart was added to the site.  In 1993 the Vietnam Women's Memorial designed by Glenna Goodacre, was added to honor the contribution of women veterans (mostly nurses).

I've been there a few times and there were always Viet Nam vets there to help guide you to look for the name you are seeking.  There is a book directory over by the statue of 3 soldiers to help you find someone also.

Many visitors leave flowers, mementos, photos, medals along the wall.  Some take a piece of paper, place it over the name of their lost loved one and scratch with a soft pencil to capture the image.

The Viet Nam Memorial has this inscribed on it:

"In honor of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States
who served in the Vietnam War. 
The names of those who gave their lives and of those who remain missing are
inscribed in the order they were taken for us.
Our Nation honors the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country
of its Vietnam veterans."

The Korean War Memorial

The Korean War lasted only 3 years (from June 1950 to July 1953) but is considered one of the bloodiest in U.S. history.   Nearly 54,000 Americans lost their lives.  It originally began as a dispute between North and South Korea, soon over 20 other countries got involved.  Since it was there and over so quickly, the Korean War had the nickname of "The Forgotten War."  It was over 30 years after it ended before Congress announced legislation for a Korean War Veteran's Memorial.  

It is located across from the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C., the memorial features a triangular garden with larger-than-life steel soldiers wearing ponchos, moving up a slight incline to where a U.S. Flag awaits.  They are carrying ammunitions, communications and weapons.  Each represent the different branches of the armed services who fought.

A black granite wall runs along side these soldier statues, with sandblasted images of 2,400 faces (taken from actual photos) of men and women who served as support troops.  They silently gaze out at the ghostly platoon.

The memorial was dedicated in 1995, on a hot, humid day with a thunderstorm later that night.  

I've been there and you walk among the soldiers, but you are not allowed to touch them (although I saw many foreign tourists doing that and kids).  I can only speak for myself, but when I was there, I felt it was as if we, who the soldiers fought for, walk among them that died for us.  It is the most eerie memorial I've been to.

The inscription on this memorial reads:

Our nation honors her uniformed sons and daughters
Who Answered their country's call to defend a country
They did not know and a people they never met.

Freedom Is Not Free.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson is best known for creating the Declaration of Independence that set the 13 original colonies in the direction of becoming this nation.

On June 26, 1934 Congress created a commission to direct the building of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  The site was chosen in 1937 and overlooks the Tidal Basin and is south of the White House.   The architecture is adapted from plans by John Russell Pope.  Since Jefferson loved the Roman Pantheon, he included it in the design.  The Memorial is an open rotunda ( a circular marble building with a domed ceiling surrounded by 26 columns) with a 19 foot bronze statue of Jefferson in the center, created by Rudolph Evans.  Surrounding the statue on the inside walls are carved excerpts from Jefferson's most famous writings. Above the entrance is a sculpture of the Declaration Committee.

On April 13, 1943 (the 200th Anniversary of Jefferson's birth) President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated this memorial.  

There was criticism about it's design by some people who dubbed it, "Jefferson's Muffin."  But today it is considered one of the most moving monuments in Washington, D.C.

The memorial has inscribed:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal...."

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial was our newest until the WWII Memorial got finished (see below). 

But it began in 1955 when congress passed the resolution authorizing the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The site was approved by congress in 1959.  Once again, there was a contest for the design.  (It seems to be our pattern?)  But I am not sure what the prize was, if any. After many competitions for the design of the memorial, Lawrence Halprin was selected to design the Memorial in 1978. Groundbreaking took place in 1991 and construction began in 1994. In 1996 a replica of Roosevelt's wheelchair was created for display in the Memorial's entrance. The total cost of the memorial is around forty-eight million dollars. The Memorial was open for the public in May 1997. Sculptors Leonard Baskin ("The Funeral Cortege"), Neil Estern (F.D.R. seated with Fala and Elanor Roosevelt), Robert Graham ("The First Inaugural" and "Social Programs"), Tom Hardy ("Presidential Seal") and George Segal ("Fireside Chat", "Rural Couple" and "Bread Line") were commissioned to visually represent the twelve years that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in office for. John Benson designed the letters and the placement of the quotes throughout the memorial, he also carved them all.

 I was there on the 2nd day it became open to the public in 1997,  before they created a newer statue with a more open wheelchair.  What I liked best about the memorial was the fountains and the bread line statue.   Here is a link (with commercial ads so be warned) for more information
to The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.


The World War II Memorial 

WWII memorial panorama photo
Click the panoramic photo to see more pictures we took at the World War II Memorial.
All photos are my own and not to be used on any other site.

Who was the person who got the ball rolling for a WWII Memorial? It was World War II veteran, Roger Dubin,  who made the suggestion to Representative (Democrat - Ohio) Marcy Kaptur, who then  presented the idea to Congress back in 1987. Then, on  May 25, 1993, President Clinton signed Public Law 103-32 American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) setting into motion the creation of a monument to honor all of those in the WWII generation (both who served and on the home front).  It is located on the central mall and from one angle you can see the Washington Monument. From the other angle you can see the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial.  By the way, WWII is the only 20th-century event commemorated on the Mall's central axis.   The location is called Area I and is a prime location on the mall. On Veteran's Day, 1995 President Clinton dedicated the site for the memorial.

Various designs were submitted to the architectural team.  The winner was an architect from Providence, Rhode Island named Friedrich St. Florian. The original design had a little bit of criticism because it originally blocked the views of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Memorial. But, after a lot of discussion and changes, the  commission approved the preliminary design in 1999, the final architectural design and several ancillary elements in 2000, granite selections in 2001, and sculpture and inscriptions in 2002 and 2003.

The memorial received more than $195 million in cash and pledges. This total includes $16 million provided by the federal government. Construction began in September 2001.

 The memorial opened to the public on April 29, 2004 and had it's official dedication ceremony on Saturday, May 29, 2004 -- Memorial Day Weekend. I, personally, visited the WWII Memorial on June 6, 2004 (D-Day 60th Anniversary).  There was a big crowd there and it was hard to read everything or take photos.  But the place was very impressive.

Washington-based construction firms Tompkins Builders (est. 1911 and is the 3rd largest construction company in the area); and, Grunley-Walsh Construction were award a $56.1 million contract to build the WWII Memorial. But, that isn't all the costs for this memorial. There were also expenses for  artwork and inscriptions, tree maintenance and protection, and utility connection fees = Total Construction $67.5 million.

The WWII memorial is made up of mostly granite and fountains, with some bronze work. The vertical pillars are made from granite from Kershaw County, S.C.  The granite flooring pavement comes from Green County, Georgia.  There is also special accent granite (green)  that comes from Brazil.

From the photo above you can see that the memorial is divided into two sides. One represents the European Front. The other represents the Pacific Front.  The fountains represent the oceans in the middle.  There are:

4 Bronze Columns with 4 Bronze Eagles and 1 Bronze Laurel in each of the arches.

Along the ceremonial entrance are 24 bronze relief sculptures depicting various aspects of WWII both fighting and on the home front.  They were designed and created by  architect and sculptor, Raymond J. Kaskey, who not only did these relief sculptures  but all the sculpture for the memorial!  A personal comment: These are very well done. And, many visitors (including me) were so tempted to touch the noses on these figures. Why? They are so tiny and you wondered if they weren't going to come off. Well, they are on there very securely!!

There is a wonderful Freedom Wall consisting of 4,000 sculptured golden bronze stars.  Each star honors the memory of  100 people to represent the 400,000 who died among the 16 million who served.

There are arches all around with the names of all the states and territories who served also. These ARE NOT in alphabetical order.  I'm not really sure of the significance of their order.  They are connected by 56 bronze ropes between each of these pillars.

There are a lot of inscriptions on this memorial with quotes. The stone calligraphy was done by  Nicholas Benson,  a third generation stone carver (going back to 1705) and letterer. He designed and carved the inscription lettering for the National WWII Memorial.

The memorial plaza and Rainbow Pool are the principal design features of the memorial, unifying all other elements. Two flagpoles flying the American flag frame the ceremonial entrance at 17th Street. The bases of granite and bronze are adorned with the military service seals of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Air Forces, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. Ceremonial steps and ramps lead from 17th Street into the plaza. There are ramps at the North and South ends for easier access by wheelchair, or those that don't want to walk the steps leading into the center.

There are a lot of fountains. They have signs asking you to not toss coins it because it will damage them.  Please respect this new memorial.

People did leave mementos at the various state arches (flowers, photos, wreaths, etc.) That is allowed. 

Just a little tidbit of information also.  The WWII Memorial does have a bathroom. However, bathrooms are few and far between on the Mall.  The line was very very long. Fortunately, I found another public bathroom a few blocks away (near the Dept. of Agriculture) which had a shorter line. My tip: If you need to go, use the closest bathroom. You never know how long the line will be at the next one!

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

We  also have a little information on this on our History of Veteran's Day page also.

Arlington Cemetery

The Cemetery has an immense history and has a lot of people buried in it.
I'm giving you an outside link to the National Arlington Cemetery Organization
so you can learn more, rather than repeat things.


The History of Memorial Day now has it's
own separate page.

Memorial Day History



Check out our Page on Veteran's Day for more information.

These were created by Brownielocks for all patriotic occasions.


Visit our MAIN PATRIOTIC PAGE. Or check out a few featured links below:

{4th of July Animation} {4th of July Cartoon & History} {Americana Trivia Quiz
{Armed Services All Branches} {BBQ History}  {1990 Gulf War Cartoons}  {Ghillie Suits History & Cartoon}
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{Memorial Day} {Morse Code Translator}
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{Yankee Doodle (Dandy?) Animation + Sing-Along

Some of the  information  was acquired from the book listed below
but I presented it in my own style and wording 90% of the time.
Occasionally, I did do some excerpts  per batim from:
"Red, White, Blue, and Uncle Who?
By Teresa Bateman
Holiday House Books © 2001


"Holiday Symbols, 2nd Edition"
by Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics, Inc.  © 2000

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