The National Mall in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Live Oaks: A Symbol of Strength
Building the Nation
The use of live oaks played a critical role in helping the nation grow from a colony to what it became—the United States of America. Ships were an essential means of transportation for moving people and products, and for protecting the nation. A variety of ships were made: fast moving packets that carried passengers and material goods, as well as slavers that brought Africans to the Americas.
African American Slavers
Many of the carpenters, shipwrights, and other craftsmen who provided the skilled labor to build America's first ships were African Americans. Some free African Americans even owned and operated their own shipyards.
Enslaved African Americans provided the dangerous, back-breaking labor of harvesting and processing the live oaks needed to build America's first ships. Live wood oak was so hard that it quickly dulled saws and axes.
In 1794, the U.S. government ordered the construction of six frigates made of live oak, which formed the basis of the U.S. Navy. One of the ships, the USS Constellation,
Left Many of the trees, described as "hard as iron," were harvested in swampy, hot, and disease-ridden areas.
Before escaping slavery in 1838, abolitionist Frederick Douglass worked as a caulker in a Baltimore shipyard, making ships watertight.
Erected by Smithsonian Gardens.
Location. 38° 53.487′ N, 77° 1.992′ W. Marker is in The National Mall, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 15th Street Northwest just south of Constitution Avenue Northwest (U.S. 50), on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1400 Constitution Avenue Northwest, Washington DC 20560, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Live Oaks: Specimens of Global, Scholarly and Public Research (here, next to this marker); Live Oaks: A Gathering Place (a few steps from this marker); Washington City Canal on the Tiber Creek (within shouting distance of this marker); Sheltering Branches (within shouting distance of this marker); Washington Monument (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Bulfinch Gate House (about 400 feet away); A Monumental Legacy (about 600 feet away); Washington: The City (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in The National Mall.
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans • Industry & Commerce • War of 1812 • Waterways & Vessels •
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Credits. This page was last revised on December 7, 2019. This page originally submitted on December 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 61 times since then and 7 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.