Free Frank cover
This free frank cover bears a red, circular, "free" Washington, DC, postmark dated May 27 . It also bears the signature of Elisha Whittlesey, who served as comptroller of the Washington National Monument Society. The society had been approved by a joint resolution of Congress on January 31, 1848, to erect the Washington Monument and enjoyed free franking privileges. A handwritten notation — "Public Business" — appears on the upper left corner, and the addressee is the International Order of Odd Fellows, Encampment 37, Norristown, Pennsylvania. The cover's enclosure, an 1850 certificate, bears facsimile signatures of the officers and managers of the Washington National Monument Society of 1850, including President Zachary Taylor.
John Marshall and James Madison formed the Washington National Monument Society in 1833 to raise funds for the monument's design and construction. These certificates were given to anyone who donated money for the monument. Guidelines restricted donations to one dollar per year, and there is more than one certificate type known.
Monument construction began in 1848, but political turmoil preceding the Civil War forced its suspension in 1856. Construction resumed in 1876, at which time the design was altered. The new design eliminated the circular colonnade that would have supported a statue of Washington in a chariot.