The Story of Marble, Part 3: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Updated: May 23
Part 3: The block is carved in Arlington
The quarrying of the block of pure white marble from the Vermont Marble Company-owned Yule, Colorado quarry, the fabrication of the block into the famed sarcophagus, and the carving of the sarcophagus done in Vermont and on-site at Arlington National Cemetery, was a major project for the Vermont Marble Company in the early 1930’s.
The block was sawed to its final size in West Rutland, Vermont, and fabricated by craftsmen in Proctor, Vermont, before it was shipped by train to Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Six more blocks joined the 56-ton internment block and by September 1931, all seven blocks were in place on the Tomb site's grounds, at Arlington, where assembly began.
By the end of December 1931, the assembly was completed and the finishing work soon followed. The beautiful carvings on the die block were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers under the direction of the sculptor Thomas Jones and architect Lorimer Rich. (The brothers also carved the Lincoln statue for the Lincoln Memorial, among others). The Tomb was finished, without a formal ceremony, on April 9, 1932.
The Tomb has a flat-faced form with carved reliefs at the corners and along the sides. The carvings are neo-classical pilasters set into the surface with objects and inscription carved into the sides. Each side panel had symbolic carvings.
The North and South panel has three wreaths on each side, each with 38 leaves and 12 berries. In 1931, the wreaths represented "a world of memories". However, years later, the symbolism changed and now represents the six major battles engaged in by American forces in France: Ardennes, Belleau Wood, Château-Thierry, terMeusse-Argonne, Oisiu-Eiseu, and Somme.
The East panel faces Washington, DC, and hosts three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor, – but in later years, Valor was changed to represent American Manhood.
The West panel is inscribed with the message that is perhaps the most well-known and epitomizes the intent of the Tomb's creation. Centered on the panel are these stirring words:
HERE RESTS IN
KNOWN BUT TO GOD
Watch the video about the making of the Tomb of the Unknowns, including a look at the modern-day Changing of the Guard ceremony, here.
Buy the book, Vermont's Marble Industry, here.