Eternal Light Peace Memorial

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Eternal Light Peace Memorial
Gettysburg ELPMemorial.jpg
The memorial has "The Flame of Eternal Peace" and relief sculptures of two women and an American eagle.
Coordinates39°50′54″N 77°14′36″W / 39.84845°N 77.24345°W / 39.84845; -77.24345Coordinates: 39°50′54″N 77°14′36″W / 39.84845°N 77.24345°W / 39.84845; -77.24345
LocationGettysburg National Military Park
DesignerPaul Philippe Cret
Lee Lawrie
TypeHistoric district contributing structure
Dedicated dateJuly 3, 1938 (1938-07-03)
WebsitePark Scenes (

The Eternal Light Peace Memorial is a 1938 Gettysburg Battlefield monument dedicated on July 3, 1938, commemorating the 1913 Gettysburg reunion for the 50th anniversary of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1913. The natural gas flame in a one-ton bronze urn is atop a tower on a stone pedestrian terrace with views from the terraced hill summit over about 400 sq mi (1,000 km2), and the flame is visible from 20 mi (32 km) away.


In 1887, "the Philadelphia Brigade, Col. Cowan and others" advocated a "grand monument to American Heroism on this battlefield",[1] and President William McKinley spoke to Cowan about North/South peace[2] in 1900.[3] The "first tentative program" of October 1910 for the 1913 Gettysburg reunion planned a "Peace Jubilee" to be held on "National Day" with an oration by President Woodrow Wilson and the cornerstone placement for the "Great Peace Memorial" at noon.[4]:173 However, after being "presented, January 11th, 1912, to the Joint Committee of the Congress [for] the Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg", funding was "found, in March 1912, impossible of accomplishment in the 62nd Congress".[4]:166 Instead of the laying of a cornerstone, on July 3 during the New York Veterans' Celebration in the 1913 Great Tent,[4]:153 Colonel Andrew Cowan gave a speech advocating the memorial, and "steps to accomplish such purpose were immediately taken … which resulted in the Gettysburg Peace Memorial Association being formed. … That Association's Bill was, on December 20th, 1913, presented to Congress…creating the Gettysburg Memorial Commission."[4]:167

The original plan was for a $250,000 "monument of peace" at The Angle,[5] but despite 1914 "Peace Memorial Bill" presentations to the US House of Representatives[2] that compared the planned memorial with Christ the Redeemer of the Andes and the Lincoln Memorial, federal funding remained "postponed". In August 1936, the memorial's commission issued 10,000 four page circulars to publicize the plan, and Virginia in 1936 was the first to appropriate funds.[6] In 1937 the Pennsylvania legislature began planning a peace memorial on Big Round Top,[7] and the state's "Peace Memorial Bill" was signed on February 24, 1937, to appropriate $5,000 for the state's "Gettysburg Peace Memorial fund".[8] The peace memorial committee selected from the 6 designs by August 1937 and on December 10, 1937, Lee Lawrie was announced as the sculptor for the structure "overlooking Big Round Top [and] Little Round Top".[9] With additional funding by New York, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, and Wisconsin; the $60,000 monument was instead completed northwest of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Groundbreaking was on February 14, and the last foot of piping for the flame's gas supply was placed on May 31.[10]


Attendance for the memorial's dedication at the 1938 Gettysburg reunion on July 3 was 250,000; a further 100,000 attempted to attend but failed to arrive due to congested roads. President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived at a temporary platform on his special train via the Reading Railroad from the North after leaving Springwood at Hyde Park NY that morning. The U.S. 3d Cavalry Division escorted the President's motorcade to the memorial on Oak Hill,[11] and Roosevelt's open car arrived with a 21 gun salute.

Roosevelt used "a new Mobile sound system unit" to address the audience[12] including the veterans on specially-constructed grandstands under a canopy.[13] As his nine-minute speech ended at sunset, the Peace Memorial covered by a 50-foot flag was unveiled by George N. Lockwood and Confederate A. G. Harris (both age 91) with two regular army attendants a photocell automatically lit the flame[14] Grand Army of the Republic chaplain Martin V. Stone ended the ceremony with a benediction prayer, and on the way to his car Roosevelt spoke with the oldest attending veteran, William Barnes of the US Colored Troops, age 112. A Sixth Field Artillery battery near Oak Hill fired a 21 gun salute as the President departed at 7 p.m. (his train to Washington used the Western Maryland Railway.

The flame was reduced to a pilot light during World War II (from December 25, 1941) and just prior to the 1946 Paris peace conference, President Truman commented about the inscribed motto, Peace Eternal in a Nation United: "That is what we want, but let's change that word (nation) to world and we'll have something."[15] The deteriorated Alabama limestone in the lower section that had been approved for use by the Bureau of Standards[16] was replaced with gray granite in June 1941,[17] and repairs were also made in 1950. A 1962 protest against nuclear arms and testing was held at the memorial, and the flame was extinguished in 1974 for the oil crisis[18] after the 93rd United States Congress prohibited such flames (except for the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame), and the extinguished gas flame was replaced by an electrical light in 1976. A Gettysburg Peace Celebration committee had been formed by June 1988, and the gas flame was restored at their Fiftieth Anniversary Rededication on July 3.[19]


  1. ^ "Town and Country" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Compiler. October 4, 1887. Retrieved 2011-07-07.col. 4
  2. ^ a b "The Peace Memorial Bill: Speech of Colonel Andrew Cowan of Louisville" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Compiler. April 18, 1914. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
  3. ^ The New York Times, March 24, 1900, p. 3.
  4. ^ a b c d Beitler, Lewis Eugene (editor and compiler) (December 31, 1913). Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg: Report of the Pennsylvania Commission (Google Books) (Report). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Bay (state printer). p. 173. Retrieved 2011-02-04. Col Andrew Cowan speech, July 3, 1913
  5. ^ "Veteran's Joyful Over Camp's End" (Google News Archive). The Day. New London, Connecticut. July 3, 1913. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
  6. ^ "Eternal Peace Light Memorial". National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  7. ^ "Senator Rice Sponsors Bill for Gettysburg Peace Memorial" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Compiler. January 20, 1937. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  8. ^ "Signs Bill for Light Memorial" (Google News Archive). The Star and Sentinel. Gettysburg. February 27, 1937. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  9. ^ "3,000 C. W. Vets to attend Reunion". New Oxford Item. December 16, 1937. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
  10. ^ "Roosevelt to Dedicate Gettysburg Memorial". Reading Eagle. May 31, 1938. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
  11. ^ "Philosophy of Lincoln used by Roosevelt". Milwaukee Sentinel. July 4, 1938. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  12. ^ "Roosevelt to Use New Broadcast Unit". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. July 25, 1938. p. 14.
  13. ^ "Flame Burning on Monument at Gettysburg". The Telegraph-Herald. Dubuque, Iowa. July 4, 1938. p. 1. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  14. ^ "'Eternal' Light Shut Off in Day". The New York Times. July 5, 1938. p. 2. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  15. ^ "Truman Suggests Substitution of Word In Inscription On Base Of Peace Memorial Here". Gettysburg Times. July 8, 1946. p. 1.
  16. ^ "Eternal Light Peace Memorial Is Disintegrating; Limestone Crumbling; Had Been Approved". Gettysburg Compiler. August 20, 1949. p. 2.
  17. ^ "Adams County Happenings". The Star and Sentinel. June 28, 1941. p. 2.
  18. ^ "[Oil] Crisis Claims Eternal Flame" (Google News Archive). Youngstown Vindicator. February 14, 1974. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  19. ^ Black, Marshall D. (July 5, 1988). "Children carry flags of peace to Eternal Light Peace Memorial". Gettysburg Times Archives. Retrieved 2011-10-17.

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