Letters from Bernard R. Green to Thomas Lincoln Casey reveal an inside look at Washington

May 8, 2020

by Susan Jarvis, volunteer

Part of the Casey Family Papers Transcription Project

Volunteers are transcribing items from the Casey Family Papers that Historic New England digitized and shared online as part of a project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Recent transcriptions include letters from civil engineer Bernard R. Green to Brigadier General Thomas Lincoln Casey.

Bernard Richardson Green. Collection of the Library of Congress.

Green worked with Casey on multiple building projects throughout his career, most notably the Washington Monument; the State, War, and Navy Building (now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building); and the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, where he served as Superintendent of Construction.

The letters between the two number in the hundreds, as Green and Casey corresponded nearly every day during the course of their twenty-plus-year association. Green’s letters mostly consist of keeping his boss informed about the daily progress and details of the building projects, including agreements with contractors, the purveyors of materials like marble, stone, iron, etc., and other contributors. He kept Casey up to date on squabbles in Congress, partisan in-fighting over appropriations and committee oversight, and other impediments to their work.

Green’s letters invariably start with “yours of the (fill in date here) has been received,” meaning Green had received Casey’s response to his from a day or so before. They invariably end with a very detailed weather report for wherever Green happened to be.

Green’s handwriting is among the more legible of the correspondents in the Casey Family Papers, so his letters are comparatively easy to transcribe. I like them because Green’s wry sense of humor is apparent in some of his letters to Casey. I am keeping a list of my favorites as I come across them. 

My favorite so far, however, is this one about the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building:

“Spofford (Librarian) thinks Smithmeyer (the Architect) is a modern Michel Angelo, & would grease his trousers & slide down the Capitol dome if Smithmeyer should say that is was necessary to the perfection of the Library design.”

Become a virtual volunteer. Help transcribe the Casey Family Papers.

Blog author volunteer Susan Jarvis is reviewing and approving Casey Family Papers transcriptions and transcribing documents herself. To date, more than 230 people have registered to be volunteer transcribers and have completed approximately 740 items.