LEE, ROBERT E. Autograph letter signed regarding the acquisition of the planetarium for Washington College [later Washington &...
Lexington, Virginia: 20 January 1868. One page autograph letter in brown ink signed "RE Lee" on one sheet of lined paper. The letter addressed indistinctly to "Mr. G Lap Marshal" likely an official at the college. 9 3/4 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm). Usual fold with short closed splits at ends, lightly spotted and thumbsoiled.
LEE OBTAINS A KENTUCKY DESIGNED ORRERY FOR WASHINGTON COLLEGE, PART OF HIS INFLUENTIAL TRANSFORMATION OF THE INSTITUTION. Late in 1865, at the conclusion of the Civil War and partly to encourage reconciliation between the North and South, Robert E. Lee became president of Washington College building upon his history as an educator (he had been appointed superintendent of West Point in 1852). In the current letter, Lee, on behalf of the Trustees of the College, thanks the recipient "for the interest you have taken in obtaining for the Institution a Planetarium of Prof. Barlow's invention, which will add greatly to the facilities for imparting instruction in the science of Astronomy." Lee here refers to the Kentucky born inventor Thomas Harris Barlow who is known to have constructed about 14 orreries, a mechanical model of the solar system or "planetarium." Lee was instrumental in obtaining the impressively room-sized (and surprisingly accurate) device for Washington College, one of only three to survive. Recently the subject of extensive restoration, the orrery now graces the Lee Chapel and Museum at Washington & Lee University, renamed adding Lee upon his death in 1870.
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