Designing a Nation: Civic Art in the Nation’s Capital

April 17, 2014

The U.S. Capitol and National Mall are a beautiful representation of the dignity and public spirit of the United States of America. This area is steeped in history, and you can learn more about the past and continued efforts to design, build, and preserve the U.S. Capitol and National Mall through many government publications.

Brumidi-To-Make-Beautiful-the-CapitolWith its famous dome celebrating its 150th anniversary in December 2013, the United States Capitol is a treasure-trove of civic art. Just released, To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi gives a detailed history of renowned Italian-born artist Constantino Brumidi’s masterful work in “making beautiful” the walls and ceilings of the United States Capitol in a span of 25 years starting in 1854. Every page delights with gorgeous, full-color photographs and images of Brumidi’s art, from photographs of the frescoes and decoration, to sketches, paintings and images of the artist, particularly the Brumidi Corridors and his “monumental fresco” in the Capitol Rotunda, called The Apotheosis of Washington. Fascinating anecdotes are included throughout of the artist and the inspirations he received for various elements, his relationship with engineer Montgomery C. Meigs, and the conservation efforts to preserve his work accurately for posterity. Read more about this publication and others about art in the Capitol in our prior blog post, National Treasure: The art and architecture of the US Capitol.

The primary oversight board for projects in the National Mall area is the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which was established by an act of Congress on May 17, 1910 in Public Law 61-181. This commission was created as an independent review agency for the work of designing the national capitol and to guide the architectural development of Washington. The commission’s role was expanded with later passage of the Shipstead-Luce Act of 1930 (Public Law 71-231 and Public Law 76-248), and the Old Georgetown Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-808). The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts has a long history of guiding the development of the nation’s capital. Several resources are available in print and online to learn more about the commission’s history.

The National Park Service maintains a detailed guide linking to documents and reports that detail the area history. The Mall Cultural Landscape Inventory, part 2 contains several pages describing the history of the Senate Park Commission and its formation into the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Designing-the-nations-capitalThe U.S. Commission of Fine Arts published a monograph in 2006; Designing the nation’s capital: the 1901 plan for Washington D.C. This 359 page monograph contains illustrations in color and black and white, as well as maps. The National Park Service provides full text access to this title online.

In addition to this title, several editions of this history of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1910 to date were published in 1964, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1991, and 1996.

Civic Art : a centennial history of the U.S. Commission of Fine ArtsThe most recent addition to the volumes available about the history of the commission is celebrates 100 years of the work of the commission. Civic Art : a centennial history of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts is a beautiful, 626 page monograph with illustrations, maps and plans. It is a comprehensive history of the agency and includes original essays by prominent architects and landscape architects including Arleyn Levee, Carroll William Westfall, and Richard Guy Wilson.

A Botanic Garden for the Nation: The United States Botanic GardenAnother beautiful book that features some of the history of the national mall area is A Botanic Garden for the Nation: The United States Botanic Garden. You can read more about this publication in a previous post on Government Book Talk.

For more information about the U.S. Capital building, you can also check out the publications highlighted in the previous Government Book Talk post on the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Capital Dome.

America’s Castle: the evolution of the Smithsonian Building and its institution, 1840-1878To read more about the history of the Smithsonian, you could visit a depository library and check out the publication, America’s Castle: the evolution of the Smithsonian Building and its institution, 1840-1878.

If you are interested in the official records of the commission, you can locate them at the National Archives. The record collection includes administrative history, annual reports, and a selection of still photographs. The records are divided between College Park, MD and Washington DC. Many of the records pertaining to the building and continued development of the National Mall are available at the National Archives, such as the National Park Service Records for the National Capital Region, and the Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital.

How Can I get this book and other publications about history of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts?

About the author: Our guest blogger is Cathy Wagner, a GPO Outreach Librarian for the U.S. Government Printing Office’s Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) Division. Additional content, images and editing provided by Trudy Hawkins, a writer and marketing specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division supporting the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).


Spring forward into the garden

March 20, 2014

Baby chick hides among yellow daffodils

Image: Chick with daffodils (Source: Argonne National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

Ah, spring: the season of rebirth, renewal, and growth. Breathe in the air full of the fresh blossoms of flowers, feel the first warm breezes, gaze at the profusion of color, and listen to the birds chirping and insects buzzing.

Most of the United States just went into daylight saving time on March 9 with instructions to “spring forward” with our clocks. On Thursday, March 20, 2014, we spring forward for real as it is the Spring or Vernal Equinox, fondly known as the official first day of spring. After a brutal winter and the first full month of spring and National Garden Month—April– just around the corner, many minds turn toward planting and gardening with their promise of getting back in touch with nature.

Play the Zone

Before you pull on the mud boots and pick up your gloves and tools, you’ll want to determine where you are in the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for the United States. The climate where you garden affects the fruits and vegetables that you can grow successfully. Local nurseries and garden centers will typically stock plants that perform well in your climate, but it’s important to know your planting zone if you are ordering seeds, bulbs, or plants from non-local establishments.

USDA-Plant-Hardiness-Zones-Map across the U.S.

Image: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map (Source: USDA)

How does your garden grow?

If you pore over seed catalogs, browse gardening Web sites, stroll the store aisles of soil, pots, and plants, and read gardening books in the dark winter months, then you probably have the gardening bug. You can also learn to recognize the real insects that you have in your garden with The Bug Book: A Garden Field Guide from the EPA. Gardeners can toil away only to find that someone else is enticed by the new plants; that’s when some choose to control pests by using chemicals. Be extra safe and learn about the effects of pest control, especially if you have children. Greenscaping (see this EPA guide) is an alternative method of dealing with those tiny invaders in your garden.

Lady bugs clustered on an oak branch

Image: Lady bugs gathering on an oak branch (Source: NPS)

Practice safe gardening

EPA's Mission: Sunwise Activity Book for sun safety ISBN  9780160917097In any outdoor activity, you want to be safe and healthy in the garden. While you are digging away and pulling weeds, you can get quite a sunburn or get dehydrated. The EPA’s Mission: Sunwise Activity Book helps educate kids on how to be safe in the sun and to use sunscreen. Check out these health and safety tips so that you can continue to enjoy the time spent outdoors.

How to Prune Trees by the U.S. Forest Service ISBN: 9780160913761How-to-Recognize-Hazardous Defects-in-Trees ISBN: 9780160913778When it comes to tackling bigger projects, read up first to learn what to look for in your own backyard, starting with those stately trees. How to Prune Trees is a best-selling quick guide to smart practices on trimming branches for optimum tree health. How to Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees is an overview of common issues with trees.

Removing a tree altogether is sometimes the only safe option; Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down? is a book for children that explains how taking away an unhealthy tree can benefit the overall environment of the garden.Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down? U.S. Forest Service ISBN: 9780160916267

As always, with any larger gardening issues, you’ll want to consult a professional arborist for concerns with your trees.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

Gardening is an ideal activity for children. Not only are they out in nature and physically active, but they also learn about where healthy food comes from while observing the weather, biology, zoology, and conservation. The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, has been teaching the message of healthy living through nutritious, locally grown food in her White House Kitchen Garden. Plants grown right outside the White House in Washington, DC, end up on the dining table of the President’s family. Whether you are building a kitchen garden, a school garden, or a community garden, Let’s Move has more information for you, including a diagram of the White House Kitchen Garden if you want to recreate it in your own backyard.

The Little Acorn - USDA children's book ISBN: 9780160817014Schools are well aware of the educational benefits of gardening; it begins as early as pre-school. (Download the free “Grow It, Try It, Like It! Preschool Fun with Fruits and Vegetables” garden-themed nutrition education kit.) Teachers can find resources and lesson plans from the EPA to incorporate gardening into their school curriculum. And if April showers are in the forecast, little ones can still learn about nature by curling up with a delightful illustrated book about The Little Acorn, which tells of the cycle of growth and change in the garden that starts with just one seed.

Watch the video below as First Lady Michelle Obama and White House chef Sam Kass tell the story of the first garden on White House grounds since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during World War II.

First Lady and White House chef explain history of the first White House kitchen garden since WW2

Inside the White House: The Kitchen Garden” video of First Lady Michelle Obama and White House chef Sam Kass telling the story of the first garden on White House grounds since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during World War II. This new garden was planted in the Spring of 2009 with the help of local elementary school children and has yielded a constant supply fresh produce for the First Family and White House events. Published May 10, 2012. (Source: White House Let’s Move YouTube Channel)

You can find more White House garden videos and gardening ideas for kids on the Let’s Move Gardening Guide web page.

Look for inspiration in public spaces

A Botanic Garden for the Nation: The United States Botanic Garden (ePub eBook) ISBN: 9780160869129 for out-of-print ISBN: 9780160767722Some folks are lucky enough to own a big garden plot; others grow plants in containers on a balcony or place herb pots by a sunny window. No matter how you garden, you can always look for inspiration for your gardening pursuits. There are a number of places to visit in spring to see the variety of plants. It’s especially helpful to visit places where plants are labeled so that you know what to look for at a local nursery or plant sale.

Cymbidium ‘Hearts of Gold’ orchid in bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Image: Cymbidium ‘Hearts of Gold’ orchid in bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden

In the nation’s capital, Washington, DC you can go to the United States Botanic Garden and see what’s in bloom or learn how to attract butterflies to your garden.

You can also purchase A Botanic Garden for the Nation: the United States Botanic Garden (ePub eBook), a GPO Online Bookstore perennial favorite (pun intended).

Girl's face peeking out from pink azaleas at National Arboretum in Washington, DC

Peeking out from among the azaleas at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC.

While in the DC area, don’t miss the United States National Arboretum. You can see every single plant contained there, search for individual plants and see exactly where they are located on this interactive map.

Find out what’s in bloom during the month of your visit. (If visiting in April, don’t miss their world-famous display of azaleas / rhododendrons which bloom sometime in April. Check their Azalea page for current bloom conditions.)

The arboretum also has full color posters to help you identify crape myrtles, shrubs, and trees.

U.S. National Arboretum Crape Myrtles Guide

Image: Guide to Lagerstroemia, commonly known as crape myrtle or crepe myrtle, from the National Arboretum. (Source: U.S. National Arboretum)

Learn about gardening by joining others

Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-Being Through Urban Landscapes ISBN: 9780160864162You can learn so much about gardening by meeting other like-minded folks. If you don’t have your own garden, you might want to join a community garden or find a local gardening group or volunteer at a gardening club. Urban soils have their own unique characteristics and benefits; find out how to grow gardens in urban soil, then enjoy the benefits that come from gardening in urban landscapes in Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-Being Through Urban Landscapes, available from GPO’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

Urban gardeners at work planting new seedlings

Image: Urban gardeners at work planting new seedlings (Source: NIH)

It’s food for thought

Fruitful Legacy: A Historic Context of Orchards in the United States, with Technical Information for Registering Orchards in the National Register of Historic Places ISBN: 9780160821271The first presidents were known not only for their political endeavors, but also for their farms, gardens and orchards. If planted and maintained well, gardens and orchards can last for decades, even centuries.

Learn more about the legacy and preservation of historic orchards in the U.S. with these two publications available from GPO’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore:

Happy gardening!

Image: Uncle Sam promoting gardening during wartimeSource: National Archives

Image: World War II USDA poster promoting Victory gardens: “Uncle Sam says GARDEN to Cut Food Costs” (Source: National Archives)

How can I get these and other Federal Government publications on Gardening?

In addition to clicking on the links in the article above to find the publications, you may find gardening publications from the following:

About the author: Kristina Bobe is a Senior Planning and Development Specialist for the U.S. Government Printing Office’s Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) Division. Additional content, images and editing provided by Michele Bartram, Government Book Talk Editor and Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC.


Oh, say, can you tree? American Christmas tree traditions

December 17, 2013

Victorian German style Christmas Xmas tree1899To anyone who enjoys Christmas trees, we say “Wie treu sind deine Blätter!” This means “how faithful are your branches”, a line from “O Tannenbaum,” the German Christmas carol. “O Tannenbaum” (Oh Christmas Tree)* was originally a folk song from Germany that’s been translated to English and sung here in the United States for years. In fact, Nat King Cole sang a classic version in German if you’re ever interested in hearing the original version. A bit of trivia: *The tune for “O Tannenbaum” is also used for the state song of Maryland—if you’re from there, or went to university there, you might have heard the state song if you haven’t heard the holiday version! Just like they got us hooked on the song about evergreens, Germany was instrumental in getting us hooked on the decorated Christmas tree tradition as well.

German immigrants really started the modern craze for Christmas trees that came to the United States in the early 1800s. Queen Victoria, who helped set fashions for the Western world in the mid to late 1800s, helped the trend along with her family Christmas tree (which she may have learned about from her German husband, Albert). (Image above depicts a Victorian era Christmas celebration.)

The evergreen tree is likely a Yule custom carried over and remade from Celtic and/or Scandinavian pagans. Regardless of the origins of the custom of bringing an evergreen into your dwelling place during the year’s darkest days, this much is for sure: having a Christmas tree is now a tried and true American holiday tradition.

Since Christmas trees have become more secular and are so popular, the Christmas tree industry is a huge business in the United States. In 2007, Americans spent over $460 million on cut trees. The Federal government wants to support this industry, and people’s holiday happiness.

TREE AND FIRE SAFETY

To help people keep their holidays safe, the Federal government publishes a number of Christmas tree fire safety publications, such as the U.S. Fire Safety Administration’s (USFA) Christmas/Christmas Tree Fires and December and Holiday Fires.

FEMA-USFA-holiday-fire-safety-infographicImage: US Fire Safety Administration’s Winter Holiday Fire Safety infographic.

According to the USFA, fire deaths increase by 50% between December 24 and 26, and injuries during that period increase by 61%.  As the USFA pointed out, “In residential structure fires where the ignition point is a Christmas tree or other holiday decoration, the fire is typically more severe in every measurable way (p.2)”. For tips on avoiding Christmas tree fires, and to view a video on proper Christmas tree safety, take a look at USFA’s Holiday & Christmas Tree Fire Safety Outreach Materials. You’ll be able to increase your awareness and look out for your family’s welfare while continuing to enjoy your household decorations.

CUTTING YOUR OWN TREE FROM A NATIONAL FOREST

If you and/or your family enjoy going out to pick a tree and cut it, you might be able to pick one up from a national forest. For example, the Federal government has harvested all of the Capitol Christmas trees from national forests. In fact, the 2009 tree was a blue spruce that came from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Certain forests have designated areas where it is possible to cut Christmas trees, once you have paid for your cutting permit. Contact your local national forest for its policies; you’re especially likely to find Christmas tree cutting areas in the West. Some national forests post their Christmas tree maps online. You can download Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Soldotna, Alaska: Christmas Tree Cutting Areas and Maps of 2013 Cutting Areas in the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests. You’ll be pulling your tree from a prestigious tree-growing area, if you do decide to get a permit from a national forest.

The trees are for personal use only, and Forest Service allows only one tree per household. Permits for the trees are quite cheap, compared to what I paid at my local Washington, DC, area hardware store. You do have to factor into the cost a bit more money for the gas it takes to haul a tree out of the forest and get it home. However, some experiences, such as holiday traditions spent together with family and friends, are priceless.

PLANTING AND CARING FOR YOUR LIVE TREE

Why-would-anyone-cut-a-tree-down? by US Forest Service ISBN: 9780160916267Some families buy live Christmas trees then plant them when the holidays are over, while others use a cut tree for the holidays then plant a new tree in the spring as a symbol of renewal.

To explain to children the need for cutting trees as well as the value of this renewable resource, the Forest Service has published the best-selling publication “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” It is full of explanations of need to remove trees for fire management and helping prevent overcrowding, and gives instructions on how to plant a tree as well.

How-to-Prune-Trees How-to-Recognize-Defects-in-TreesTo care for your live tree once it’s planted, be sure to check out How to Prune Trees to keep your tree looking and growing its best.

And the useful How To Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees will help you identify problems in a tree that could be detrimental to its health.

FAMOUS WASHINGTON, DC AREA CHRISTMAS TREES

Here in the Nation’s capital, there are a number of famous Christmas trees.

National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace

Since 1923, the United States has held a tradition of having a National Christmas Tree lighting in Washington, DC, starting with President Coolidge lighting the “First National Christmas Tree.” Starting in 1954, a “Pathway of Peace,” 56 smaller, decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia were planted surrounding the National Christmas Tree. They stay decorated through New Year’s Day.

2012-National-Tree_Pathway-of-PeaceImage: 2012 National Christmas Tree and Pathway of Peace on Ellipse behind the White House. Credit: National Park Service

Today, the annual lighting ceremony on the Ellipse—the grassy area south of the White House— is usually televised with tickets given by lottery in advance, with celebrities and the President and First Family doing the honors of lighting the National Christmas Tree and kicking off the season.

The Capitol Christmas Tree

The annual Capitol Christmas Tree lighting held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol has been an American tradition since 1964 and is a great holiday event that you don’t want to miss. However, the official practice of lighting the “Capitol Christmas Tree” did not start until 1968 according to the Architect of the Capitol.

2013-Capitol-Xmas-TreeImage: 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree. Image source: Architect of the Capitol.

The Capitol Christmas Tree should not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree, which is planted near the White House and lighted every year by the President and First Lady. The Speaker of the House officially lights the Capitol Christmas Tree.

“Yule” Scream for the Norwegian Embassy Tree

A lesser known but charming Capital City tradition comes from Norway. Since 1996, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. has given a Christmas tree to the American people as a symbol of friendship between the United States and Norway. The lighted tree is usually decorated with both U.S. and Norwegian flags, and can be found in DC’s Union Station train station. As explained by the Norwegian ambassador in the annual lighting ceremony attended by high-level U.S. military  and Government officials as guests, the gift of the Norway-US friendship tree also express Norway’s gratitude for the assistance received from the United States during and after World War II.

Tusen-takk-Amerika or Thank you, America banner from the Norwegian Embassy's 2013 Friendship Christmas Tree at Union Station in Washington, DC. Photo copyright: Michele BartramImage: Norwegian Embassy’s “Thank you, America” (Tusen Takk, Amerika!) banner at base of the Norwegian-US Friendship Xmas tree at Washington, DC’s Union Station in 2013. Image credit: Michele Bartram

From a distance, all you see are the 20,000 lights and the American and Norwegian flags cascading up the 32-foot tree. Upon closer inspection, this year’s visitors found 700 little reflective screaming faces on ornaments Norwegian-Embassy-Tree-Edvard-Munch-Scream-ornament-2013 from the Norwegian Embassy's 2013 Friendship Christmas Tree at Union Station in Washington, DC. Photo copyright: Michele Bartramdepicting Norwegian artist Edward Munch’s infamous “Scream” painting—placed on the tree by the humorous Norwegians in honor of 2013’s 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth.

In a way, [the “Scream”] symbolizes all the angst in preparing for an excellent Christmas,” said Norwegian Ambassador Kare Aas to the Washington Post with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Image: Edvard Munch “Scream” 2013 ornament and flag of Norway on the Norwegian Embassy Friendship Christmas Tree. Image credit: Michele Bartram

Just taking a drive around the National Mall on a December night, seeing the National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace, the national menorah, the Capitol Christmas Tree, and the Norway-US Friendship Tree can put you in more of a holiday mood.

GIFTS FOR UNDER YOUR TREE

Incidentally, if you’re still looking for holiday gifts to go under your tree, GPO’s U.S. Government Bookstore has loads of gift suggestions on their Gift Guides & Calendars page. Or give an eBook for a great last-minute gift to anyone around the world.

Hanukkah is past this year and there are only a few days left before Christmas day, but then again, there are always gift opportunities on Hogmanay, New Year’s Day, and Three King’s Day (Los Reyes Magos)/ Epiphany, too!

HOW CAN YOU GET THE PUBLICATIONS LISTED HERE?

And remember, worldwide standard SHIPPING IS FREE on the U.S. Government Bookstore website, so shop away!

  • Shop Online: Download the free publications listed by clicking on the links in the article above.
    You can purchase the print and ebook publications mentioned from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by clicking on the individual links above in this blog post or the links below:

  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the author(s): Adapted and expanded by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and the US Government Printing Office (GPO) Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram, from an original blog post by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Happy holidays from us both!


National Treasure: The art and architecture of the US Capitol

December 2, 2013

One hundred and fifty years ago today, on December 2, 1863, the United States Capitol Dome was completed, adding its own distinctive grandeur to the skyline of our Nation’s capital city.

Last month in November 2013, a two-year project began to restore the aging dome. Read all about it on the Architect of the Capitol’s website about the US Capitol Restoration Project at http://www.aoc.gov/dome.

While most of the focus on the Capitol these days pertains to politics, this anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect on the art and architecture of one of our National Treasures, the US Capitol, along with the artists, architects and engineers who helped make it a showplace worthy of a world class city. Following are a few of the more outstanding publications about the US Capitol art and architecture.

Glenn Brown’s History of the United States Capitol

Glenn-Brown-History-of-the-United-States-CapitolPrepared for the Bicentennial of the construction of the United States Capitol in 1994, Glenn Brown’s History of the United States Capitol is the definitive history of the construction of the Capitol, including the many trials and tribulations along the way, such as the burning of the Capitol by the British in August 1814 during the War of 1812.

Glenn-Brown_US-Capitol-after-British-burning-in-War-of-1812Image: US Capitol exterior after the fire from the British burning of Washington. From Glenn Brown’s History of the United States Capitol

Capital Engineers: The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington DC, 1790-2004

In his introductory address kicking off the second inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden on January 21, 2013, Senator Schumer (D-N.Y.) remarked on the completion of the Capitol Dome 150 years ago—just two years ahead of President Lincoln’s second inauguration on March 4, 1865:

When Abraham Lincoln took office [in 1861], two years earlier the dome above us was a half-built eyesore… Conventional wisdom was that it should be left unfinished until the war ended, given the travails and financial needs of the times. But to President Lincoln the half-finished dome symbolized the half divided nation. Lincoln said, ‘If people see the Capitol going on it is a sign we intend the union shall go on.’ And so, despite the conflict which engulfed the nation, and surrounded the city, the dome continued to rise.”

Capital Engineers: The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington DC, 1790-2004 ISBN: 9780160795572The Army Corps of Engineers played a significant role in the design and construction of the Capitol Dome and the rest of Washington, DC. In the enjoyable and anecdote-filled book entitled Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004, readers can discover the politics, passion, inspiration and innovation that went into crafting the landmark historic monuments, public buildings and infrastructure that makes up the Nation’s capital, including sketches and insider stories about the design and construction of the United States Capitol and Dome.

You can read the detailed review of this fun and fact-filled book under our earlier blog post, The Untold Story Behind the Engineering of Washington DC. Lincoln-First-Inauguration-at-US-CapitolImage: First Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, beneath the unfinished Capitol dome. Source: Library of Congress

NEW! To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi

To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi, 2013 edition, ISBN: 9780160921001Once the Dome was completed, it was decided that it needed to be a showcase of the finest art. For those visitors lucky enough to come to Washington, DC, and take a tour of the Capitol, they marvel at the “monumental fresco” in the Capitol Rotunda, called The Apotheosis of Washington, that reminds one of the Sistine Chapel and the incredible frescoes along the walls and ceilings of the corridors and special rooms, such as the President’s Room.

In this stunning new publication, To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi, the United States Senate Office of the Curator provides an updated history of the work on the Capitol by Italian-born artist, Constantino Brumidi, who spent the last 25 years of his life making the Capitol into an awe-inspiring piece of art worthy of his own native land’s masterpieces with his frescoes and decoration of the walls and ceilings. Includes new discoveries about the artist, his inspirations and genius resulting from recent extensive restoration of his work to its original glory.

US Capitol The Brumidi Corridors, from To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi ISBN: 9780160921001 Image: The Brumidi Corridors, from To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi

United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art

United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art ISBN 9780160511721Visitors to the finished Capitol are often surprised by both its stunning architectural details and the impressive art complementing the interior spaces. Now, those works of art–ranging from portraits of prominent senators to depictions of significant events in U.S. history–are accessible to everyone through the publication of the United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art. Prepared by the Office of Senate Curator, the catalogue represents the first comprehensive effort to illustrate and interpret this rich collection of 82 sculptures, 75 paintings, 2 enameled mosaics, and 1 stained glass window. Capitol_George-Washington-Memorial-WindowImage: Stained glass George Washington Memorial Window, by Maria Herndl in 1904, from United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art

The 160 pieces in the catalogue represent the work of 111 artists, including such celebrated figures as Gilbert Stuart, Alexander Calder, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Thomas Sully, and Daniel Chester French. Many of the works feature prominent senators, including portraits of Everett McKinley Dirksen, Mike Mansfield, and Robert A. Taft, and small bronze sculptures of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

A majority of the people depicted are immediately recognizable, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Benjamin Franklin, but there are also lesser-known figures include the Ojibwa Indian Chief Be Sheekee (Buffalo) who was in Washington to negotiate a peace treaty the year he died, and Senate employee Isaac Bassett, who came to the Senate in 1831 as one of the first pages and stayed until 1895, when he was an elderly doorkeeper. Capitol_Ojibwa-Indian-Chief-Be-SheekeeImage: Marble bust of Indian Chief Be sheekee, or Buffalo, by sculptor Francis Vincenti in 1856

Although portraits dominate the collection, the American landscape is represented by an oil painting of Niagara Falls in winter. Major events are also documented, such as the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln and the first manned moon landing. There are two special collections: a collection of vice presidential busts, and a series of paintings of major U.S. army posts completed by Seth Eastman.

Eastman Forts Print Set

In 1870, the House Committee on Military Affairs commissioned artist Seth Eastman to paint 17 images of important U.S. Army forts in the United States after the Civil War. He completed the works between 1870 and 1875. For many years, the fort paintings hung in the rooms assigned to the House Military Affairs Committee, first in the Capitol and later in the Cannon House Office Building. During the late 1930s, they were returned to the Capitol for public display. Of the 17 paintings, 8 are located today in the Senate wing. Seth Eastman US Army Forts paintings Print Set

This Eastman Forts Print Set includes a booklet, “The Eastman Forts, A Guide to the Print Set,” and 10 color prints of Eastman paintings of the following ten forts: Fort Mackinac in Michigan; Mifflin in Pennsylvania; Trumbull in Connecticut; Tompkins and Wadsworth in New York; Scammel and Gorges in Maine; Delaware in Delaware; Snelling in Minnesota; Taylor in Florida; Defiance in New Mexico (now Arizona); and Fort Rice in North Dakota. Painting of Fort Trumbull, Connecticut, by Seth Eastman hanging in the US CapitolImage: A painting of Fort Trumbull, Connecticut, by Seth Eastman, commissioned by the U.S. Army in 1870, and hanging in the US Capitol. Part of the Eastman Forts Print Set.

United States Senate Catalogue of Graphic Art

US-Senate-Catalogue-of-Graphic-ArtSome of the art about the Capitol was not included in the building itself, but was produced outside of it by the press and media of the day. Prior to the advent of modern media with color photographs and live audio and video, Americans received their news and images from newspapers and illustrated news magazines, which included both hard news and softer features full of engravings, portraits, political cartoons, and illustrations.

The United States Senate Catalogue of Graphic Art reflects this coverage mix of both hard and soft news. The catalogue includes prints involving the Senate that depict important events of the day such as the debate over slavery, the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, and presidential inaugurations. But also featured are prints capturing the daily rhythms of the Senate such as the crowded Capitol corridors, Senate pages delivering documents, lobbyists pleading their case, meals in the Senate dining room, and idyllic scenes of the Capitol building and grounds.

Capitol-Interior-Rotunda-1853How can I obtain these publications about the US Capitol Art and Architecture?

  • Shop Online: You can purchase these publications from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by clicking on the links above in this blog post or  clicking here to shop our US Capitol Art publications.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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