Not carved in stone
MILFORD – At the end of his “Frank History” talk at the Union Coffee Co. last month, Milford Historical Society President David Palance proudly waved a $10 bill.
He was proud because the picture on the reverse side, of the United States Treasury Building, shows many of its massive Greek Revival columns, all 30 made from Milford granite.
Milford residents have long been proud of the town’s contributions to the building, a National Historic Landmark and the oldest departmental building in Washington. At the time of its completion in 1842, it was one of the largest office buildings in the world.
Each of the columns is 36 feet tall, and each was carved from a single block of granite.
They were quarried from Lovejoy’s Quarry in 1908, according to “The Granite Town,” and cut in Worcester, Mass.
“These monoliths weighed ninety tons each and required the largest derrick in New England to lift them from the quarry,” the town history says.
The designs on the front and back of the $10 bill date from 1929, however, and are scheduled for a redesign.
And while the Department of the Treasury’s current design concepts, shown on its web pages, keep the Treasury building and its columns, that could change after a new Secretary of the Treasury is appointed.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said in an email last week that right now, the design is uncertain.
“The engraving of the Treasury Department is expected to remain on the new $10 note,” Lydia J. Washington said. “However, at this time in the design process, final designs for the new currency have not been finalized.”
That’s because the design is entirely the decision of the Secretary of the Treasury, and a new secretary will be appointed. The Senate Finance Committee was scheduled to vote soon on President Donald Trump’s choice, hedge fund manager Steven Mnuchi.
So far, the redesign concepts for the reverse of the $10 bill include images honoring both the Treasury Building and the women’s suffrage movement and its leaders, including Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
They feature the movement’s 1913 parade in Washington, when thousands of women marched in favor of voting rights for women the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.
Images that could be used in the redesign are on the Treasury Department’s “Modern Money” website. They show photos from what was formally called the Woman Suffrage Procession. In one of them, women and girls dressed in white toss balloons in front of the Treasury Building, with some of the 30 columns clearly visible.
Whether a design that shows the Treasury Building will ultimately be used is uncertain, however, and in Milford, people are crossing their fingers.
“There’s a lot of Milford history in that one little $10 bill,” said Polly Cote, past president of the Milford Historical Society. “It would be very disappointing” if the columns didn’t remain on the redesigned bill.
The columns are part of Cote’s family history. Her great-uncle, Charles Langdell, was a photographer who was often commissioned to take photos of Milford events. In 1908, he shot the Treasury columns being quarried, including a 31st column – there was a 31st column because inspectors found a flaw in the 30th column and had it replaced, despite pleadings from several New England congressmen.
Photos taken by Langdell show the granite for the 31st “wrapped in a chain, loaded onto a railroad car and being taken away by train,” Cote wrote in a 2012 history column for The Cabinet.
To lift such large pieces of granite required huge derricks, and the derricks shown in his pictures were the largest in New England, 111 feet high with a boom 90 feet long.
The Treasury Building is only one building were Milford granite can be seen, though it’s the most conspicuous.
“It has been said that there is hardly a city or town in the United States that does not contain some Milford granite in the form of a statue or monument, building stone or trim, curbing or paving blocks in its streets,” according to “The Granite Town.”
The cherub staircase in the Library of Congress was created from granite quarried here by Frank Comolli, born in Italy in 1873, “perhaps the most proficient of Milford’s stone artists,” according to the town history.
And Chuck Worcester, chairman of the Milford Heritage Commission, said in an email that “Joe Silva was one of the installers of Milford granite pavers near the Archives building.”
Silva was a well-known Milford “quarryman,” who donated his granite-cutting tools to the Historical Society.
It isn’t necessary to go the Washington to see examples of Milford granite work.
Closer to home are statues in the Riverside and West Street cemeteries, two stone buildings on Nashua Street and two Milford churchs, Church of Our Saviour and the Unitarian Universalist Church.
But Worcester called the Treasury Building “a critical cornerstone of the United States and should remain as a symbol on its currency.” He said the granite columns are “a testament to the hard-working and talented immigrants who came here to make a new life in this land of promise.
“The immigrants, who came from Italy, Finland, England, Ireland and Scotland to settle and build a new life here in Milford, dug and cut these massive blocks of New Hampshire granite with pride and expertise.”
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New $20 bill
The $10 bill is not the only currency note scheduled for a redesign. An image of Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist and former slave, was chosen for the $20 note to replace President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner. She would be the first African-American to be honored on paper currency.
Last April, after Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced the major changes, the New York Times said they “may well have captured a historical moment for a multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial nation moving contentiously through the early years of a new century.”
Lew had originally wanted a woman on the face of the $20 bill, but decided Alexander Hamilton’s image will remain. Many people believe that’s at least partly because of the Founding Father’s enormous popularity from the success of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”
But all of these design changes are uncertain.
Writing in the Washington Post about attempts to get a woman on the front of the $20 note, reporter Amber Phillips said, “There’s one big sticking point. Treasury officials say switching the $20 will take until 2030, and another Treasury secretary in a new administration could simply scrap the plan.”
To see the current design concepts for U.S. currency, visit modernmoney.treasury.gov.
– KATHY CLEVELAND