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Visual Evidence

Image 1: The Laying of the First Stone



Artist, Stanley M. Arthurs painted this image for the B&O Railroad Company in 1927. Called, The Laying of the First Stone, the painting depicts a famous scene from the company’s history. At the time depicted in this image, people who used to construct new buildings would typically have a special cornerstone of the building that illustrated the year the building was constructed. The B&O Railroad wanted to lay a symbolic cornerstone for the construction of their new road made of rails in 1828. The scene depicts Chief Masonic officers of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and a special guest of honor, Charles Carroll of Carrollton laying the B&O’s “First Stone” on July 4, 1828. At the time, Charles Carroll was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence from 1776. When laying the B&O’s “First Stone” he said, “I consider this among the most important acts of my life, second only to my signing the Declaration of Independence, if even it be second to that.”

In addition to performing as a symbolic cornerstone for the construction of the railroad, the “First Stone” also served as a time capsule. Inside the hollow stone, officials placed a copy of the company’s charter, various newspapers of the day, and a scroll that stated: "This Stone is deposited in commemoration of the commencement of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. A work of deep and vital interest to the American people. Its accomplishment will confer the most important benefits upon this nation, by facilitating its commerce, diffusing and extending its social intercourse, and perpetuating the happy Union of these, Confederated States. The first general meeting of the citizens of Baltimore to confer upon the adoption of proper measures for undertaking this magnificent work, was on the second day of' February 1827…” [1]

Questions for Image 1
    1. How would you describe the scene illustrated in the painting?

    2. Why are there so many people around the “First Stone?”

    3. Why do you think they chose July 4th for the date of this event?

    4. What do you think was the significance of Charles Carroll of Carrollton being the guest of honor at the event?

    5. What do you think he meant by his statement of this being the second most important thing he has ever done?

    6. Why was such an event considered so important for the American people?

[1] Description of the Laying of the First Stone , July 4, 1828 from the Baltimore American, July 7, 1828.
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