Thursday, April 14, 2011

Andrew Doig, John Struthers & George Washington's Sarcophagus

The Dunfermline Press issued a special supplement on July 2, 1976, where they explored the “Historic Links with the Kingdom of Fife.” It was the bicentennial of America and this was a “record of Scottish endeavors in the history of America.” Several pages were devoted to Andrew Carnegie. They also published a number of letters from Americans who had connections with the Kingdom of Fife. I have a copy in the files.

One lady from Colorado wrote the newspaper about her great-great-grandparents named Doig.  She wrote that Andrew Doig was born in Dundee in 1797,  and married Catherine Isabelle Fife of Fifeshire in 1825.  He left for America in 1830, settled in Philadelphia and two years later was joined by his family.  “He was a stone cutter and skilled workman”.  In the 1840s he moved to Washington, D.C. and helped build the old Post Office.  He was then employed on the Capital Building where “he put up the self-supported hanging stairs.”

The Philadelphia firm that he worked for gave two massive blocks of marble “out of which he carved the sarcophagus of George and Martha Washington.  He carved the eagle and coat-of-arms on the sarcophagus of George Washington seen in the tomb at Mount Vernon.” A Google search did not reveal any more information about Andrew Doig, but there is information about the firm he worked for in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

John Struthers was a prominent architect and builder in Glasgow but he brought his family to America in 1816, including his son John who was following in his father’s footsteps.  John  became associated with Thomas Wilson who conducted a marble-yard in Philadelphia. When Washington’s body was moved to its present location at Mount Vernon,  John Struthers donated a solid block of Pennsylvania marble for the sarcophagus and chiseled out the interior to admit a leaden coffin.  He did the same for Martha Washington. 

On one side of the sarcophagus is carved “By the permission of Lawrence Lewis, Esq.  This Sarcophagus of Washington was presented by John Struthers, of Philadelphia, Marble Mason.” One the other side reads: “This Sarcophagus containing the remains of George Washington, first President of the United States, was made and presented for the purpose by John Struthers of Philadelphia this day of A.D. 1837.”  It is possible that Andrew Doig worked on the engraving but all the credit was given to the owner of the firm, John Struthers.   

George Washington, it appears, was surrounded by Scots both in life and death.

Since we are approaching the Easter Season it is significant to note that posted above the sarcophagus are the words of St. John: "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord.  He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” 

Note: Comments from the Colorado letter are “Reproduced by kind permission of the Dumfermline Press Ltd.

Wayne Rethford, Historian
Scottish American History Club

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