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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Zero Mile: 1925

Zero Mile: 1925

Washington circa 1925. "White House Zero Mile." National Photo Company Collection glass negative, Library of Congress. View full size.

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New Rome? Not Quite.

Stanton_Square's Wikipedia reference on the zero milestone mentions that Major Peter Charles L'Enfant intended a column to be placed 1 mile east of the Capitol, "from which all distances of places through the continent were to be calculated." This same comment appears in Grand Avenues by Scott W. Berg.

It's interesting that the marker wasn't placed until 1919, because, as Berg's book explains, although L'Enfant laid out the capital shortly after the birth of the Republic, not until after 1900 was he properly credited and the greater extent of his vision realized. Another point made by Berg is that L'Enfant, although clearly knowledgable of the world's great cities, intended the US capital to be something entirely new. For anyone interested in DC's history, I highly recommend it as an engrossing and informative read.

[As noted in the Wikipedia article, the original Zero Mile marker was placed in 1804, not 1919. And west of the Capitol, not east. - Dave]

Zero Milestones

The milestones must have been in vogue in the 20's. A very similarly inscribed one can be found in front of the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA.

P1020294 yes

Is it still there?

Lots of good information in this post, but I am left with the simple query, "is it still there?"

[Google "zero milestone." - Dave]

Odd Cloud Formation

That's a very odd cloud formation. Is it a flaw on the photograph? If it is, why aren't there any white dots on the tree branches?

[That's mold growing on the emulsion. There's no emulsion (or very little) on the darkest parts of the image, hence no spots there. - Dave]

New Rome

Oh, I long for the day when our country recognized the importance of infrastructure and celebrated improvements. I particularly like Harding's statement concerning highways as the "arteries of the enlightened state." The basic facts regarding the zero milestone are on Wikipedia.

Washington Post, Jul 6, 1919

60 Trucks Will Cross Continent

Monument Will be placed on Ellipse Tomorrow to Mark Start.

Ceremonies on the north side of the Ellipse, between the monument and the white house, will be held at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning to mark the start for a motor convoy of 60 trucks and other vehicles for San Francisco, the first transcontinental trip of its kind ever undertaken.

Secretary of War Baker will deliver and address and a small monument will be erected at the starting point as the zero milestone of the national highway system. The monument is designed to be the milestone from which, as from the golden milestone in the Forum of Rome, all road distances will be reckoned.

A committee representing the American Automobile Association, cooperating with the motor transport corps of the army, is in charge of arrangements. Dr. S.M. Johnson is chairman.

Washington Post, Jun 4, 1923

President Accepts Zero Stone Today

Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, tourists and Washingtonians will witness the dedication of the Zero Milestone monument immediately south of the White House this afternoon at 2 o'clock. President Harding will make the address of acceptance and dedicate the monument, which will be presented by Dr. S.M. Johnson, general director of the Lee Highway association.

Washington Post, Jun 4, 1923

Text of President's Address

My countrymen, in the old Roman forum there was erected in the days of Rome's greatness, a golden milestone. From it was measured and marked the system of highways which grid-ironed the Roman world and bound the outermost provinces to the heart and center of the empire.

We are dedicating here another golden milestone, to which we and those after us will relate the wide-ranging units of the highway system of this country. From the golden zero stone of the Roman highway system the soldiers, the adventurers, the administrators and later the missionaries of Rome went out to carry the institutions and the civilization of the imperial state to their expanding world. The Romans were the highway builders of the ancient world, and we shall find inspiration on this occasion in the thought of how greatly their highways influenced the course of all history since their time. Along these ancient highways surged the great conflicting forces of civilization and barbarism - now ebbing, now flowing, but always influencing the barbarians toward the civilization, the institutions, the religion of the Italian peninsula. Indeed, it would require little imagination to picture our civilization in terms of distance, by miles or centuries, from that ancient Roman community which first conceived the highways as the arteries of the enlightened state. Always the avenues of trade were the paths of widening civilization.
... [10 more paragraphs]....

Would you?

I'd walk a mile for a Camel.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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