Remembering to Forget: Grant’s Tomb Through the 1930s

In my capstone project, entitled “Remembering to Forget: Grant’s Tomb Through the 1930s,” I use the General Grant National Memorial as a case study to explore issues of public memory and commemoration, with regards to both Grant himself and the post-Civil War Restoration era more generally.  On April 27, 1897, nearly one million people lined the streets of New York City to watch what the dedication of the tomb of Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War hero and former president. For the next forty years, thousands of people gathered at Grant’s Tomb to commemorate both Grant and the Civil War. Beginning in the late 1930s, however, the tomb underwent a shift: from its previous role as a sacred gathering site for social elites, veterans, and New Yorkers to remember Grant and the Civil War, the tomb became an unused artifact, a symbol that no longer had any practical use.  In my capstone project, I chronicle the construction and public use of Grant’s Tomb and attempt to explain why the monument fell into disuse.  I do this by exploring shifting public perceptions of both the Civil War and Grant’s presidency, the democratization of public memorials, and changes in the use of public spaces.