The Acquisitions Table: Ira Hill’s Memorial


Those of us who are located in the chilly Northeast are already beginning to dream of spring and gardens.  Curator of books David Whitesell describes Ira Hill’s proposal for a very special garden for Washington D.C.

Hill, Ira, ca. 1783-1838. Ira Hill’s memorial, and remarks to Congress. [N.p., 1824]

Second recorded copy of this intriguing proposal for a ten-acre three-dimensional garden map of the world, in Mercator projection, to be built adjacent to the U. S. Capitol building.  Hill was a Maryland schoolteacher best known for his theory that the enigmatic Dighton Rock bore inscriptions from an expedition sent to the New World by the Biblical King Solomon. Here he proposes a botanical novelty unsurpassed for its beauty and pedagogical utility. In Hill’s garden, “the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific will be one hundred and sixty feet” in length, and major topographical features such as oceans and mountain ranges would be depicted (albeit not so visually impressive even at this scale). Congress could have all this for only $10,000 up front, eventually refunded through a half share in future profits from ticket sales. Hill presented his petition in April 1824. Despite offering to scale the project back to a map of the United States alone, he failed to attract the necessary votes, and the garden remained unbuilt. Purchased from Savoy Books. General Library Acquisitions II Fund.

~ David Whitesell

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