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Interpreting the Evidence

Interior of Grant's Tomb, New York City, c. 1900

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 - 1877)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Civil War

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Interior of Grant's Tomb, New York City, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Interior of the tomb of President Ulysses S. Grant in New York City. Photograph taken c. 1900.
Historical Context
After a painful struggle with throat cancer, Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885. Before his death, Grant had expressed a preference for being buried at West Point. Knowing, however, that his wife could not be buried with him at West Point when she died, he instructed her to choose a burial site for him. When New York City offered to set aside land in one of its public parks for Grant's tomb, the Grant family accepted and chose a location in Riverside Park, overlooking the Hudson River.

Soon after Grant's death, the Grant Monument Association was formed to oversee the construction of a tomb befitting the national hero. Two competitions were held to determine the design of the tomb. The winning design, submitted by architect John H. Duncan, was partly modeled after one of the seven wonders of the world. Grant had been so popular with the American public that ninety thousand people donated money for the construction of his tomb.

Meanwhile, Grant's body was placed in a temporary tomb in Riverside Park. On April 27, 1892, seventy years after Grant's birth and nearly seven years after his death, President Benjamin Harrison laid the cornerstone of the new tomb. Over the next six years, more than 8,000 tons of granite were used in constructing Grant's Tomb, which is still the largest mausoleum in North America. Grant's Tomb was dedicated on April 27, 1897, which would have been his seventy-fifth birthday. A public holiday was declared for the dedication. Like Grant's funeral twelve years earlier, the dedication featured a parade of 60,000 marchers and was observed by one million people.

Essential Question
How do individuals influence national and global events?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of Grant on American society.
Historical Challenges
Create a travel guide to inform visitors of all of the presidents buried in New York State.
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write an obituary for Ulysses S. Grant.
Science: Grant's family purchased a state-of-the-art, burglar-proof coffin for his burial. Design a coffin that robbers could not break into.