As part of Potomac Lodge No. 5’s stewardship of this important historical artifact, the Lodge responds to several requests each year for presentations or ceremonies which include the George Washington Gavel. The first recorded use of the Gavel after the laying of the cornerstone of the Capitol was August 22, 1824 when it was used to lay the cornerstone of the City Hall of the District of Columbia.
Since that time, it has been used to lay the cornerstone of many public buildings throughout the eastern part of the United States and for other public and Masonic ceremonies of an historical nature. Among some of the most noteworthy events are the laying of the cornerstones of:
- The American University on October 21, 1896
- The State Capitol of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg on August 10, 1898
- The Washington Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul at Mount Saint Albans in Washington on September 29, 1907
- The Scottish Rite House of the Temple on October 18, 1911
- The Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall on October 30, 1928
- The Smithsonian Institution on May 1, 1847
- The Washington Monument on July 1, 1848
- The Soldier’s Monument at Antietam Battlefield on November 10, 1867
- The Grand Lodge of D.C. on May 20, 1868
- The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on June 24, 1868
The following Presidents of the United States, all Master Masons but two, have either used or been present at the using of the Gavel on the occasions cited below:
- James K. Polk in the laying of the cornerstone of the Smithsonian Building, May 1, 1847.
- Millard Fillmore in the laying of the cornerstone of the extension of the U. S. Capitol, July 4, 1851.
- James Buchanan at the dedication of the Equestrian Statue of George Washington, February 22, 1860.
- William McKinley at the George Washington Centennial Observance at Mt. Vernon, December 14, 1899.
- Theodore Roosevelt at the celebration of the sesquicentennial date on which General Washington received the Master Mason’s degree, November 2, 1902; in laying the cornerstone of the House Office Building, April 14, 1906; and again, in laying the cornerstone of the Masonic Temple, 801 13th Street, NW, June 8, 1907.
- William H. Taft in laying the cornerstone of the All Souls Unitarian Church, February 13, 1913.
- Warren G. Harding in laying the cornerstone of the Washington Victory Memorial, November 14, 1921.
- Herbert Hoover in laying the cornerstone of the Department of Commerce, June 10, 1929 and the Department of Labor, December 15, 1932.
- Harry S. Truman in the Centennial Observance of the cornerstone laying of the Washington Monument, July 1, 1948, this being a repeat engagement for the Gavel as it was used to lay the original cornerstone of the Monument, Jul 1, 1848.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower in laying the cornerstone of the new extension of the U. S. Capitol building, July 4, 1959.
A most special honor to Potomac Lodge occurred when the Gavel was personally used by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in laying the foundation stone of the new British Embassy building on October 19, 1957.
The George Washington Gavel has been present on numerous historic occasions in recent years, including the reenactment of the placing of the original boundary marker of the District of Columbia located at Jones Point near the Potomac River shoreline of Alexandria, Virginia. This ceremony was one of the Masonic events conducted by the Grand Lodge, F.A.A.M., of the District of Columbia, as a salute to our country’s Bi-Centennial Celebration on October 9, 1976.
The ceremonial usage of the Gavel was most evident in 1982, when it was present for several special programs commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Illustrious Brother George Washington. The events were held not only at Potomac Lodge No. 5, but in several other locations including Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason on November 4, 1752, and became a Master Mason on August 4, 1753; and in Alexandria Washington Lodge No. 22, in Alexandria, Virginia where he was installed as their first Worshipful Master on November 22, 1788, less than six months prior to his inauguration as the First President of the United States of America on April 30, 1789.
The Gavel was also present for the centennial celebration of the laying of the cornerstone of the Statue of Liberty on August 5, 1984. In 1992, the Gavel was used at a re-enactment of the laying of the cornerstone of The White House 200 years after that event, and in 1993, for two re-enactments of the laying of the cornerstone of the United States Capitol, also 200 years after that event.
The George Washington Gavel, to some perhaps just an inanimate object of cold marble and wood, is, for most who see it today, a vibrant bridge between the present and the history of our Nation’s Capitol, and indeed, our nation. To hold the Gavel is to hold history in your hand and to feel, if only for a brief moment, an implement which, although sightless, has still been eyewitness to many significant events in American history for more than 200 years.
Time marches on, and we continue the illustrious history of this Masonic artifact we call the Gavel. One of the great intangible benefits of the Gavel is its ability to establish so many friendships between so many fine Masons in so many locations.