[Riley Lanigan, a fifth grade student at the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School, was honored at an assembly at the school this week for being the first resident of the borough to receive a Monmouth County Historical Commission award in the Commission’s annual essay contest for fifth grade students throughout Monmouth County.

Riley’s essay about a grandfather three times removed earned her the second place award from the Commission earlier this month, along with a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble and a presentation at the Commission’s meeting at the Hall of Records in Freehold.]

The Presidential Table

  When I was little, I would visit my grandmother and I loved her beautiful sewing chest. It is about the size of a large shoe box. The chest is made completely out of wood and has bird and vine designs on the top and sides. What I really like about the chest is that it’s made of hundreds of tiny pieces of inlaid wood, like a jigsaw puzzle. I always thought it was a normal sewing chest – with no sentimental value to my family…until now.

Recently, I asked my grandmother about her sewing chest. I was surprised to find out that the person who built it as my great great, great grandfather, Peter Glass. He was born in Germany, and in 1844 he came to the United States. His passion was marquetry – a type of woodworking where you create pictures  out of tiny pieces of inlaid wood to make furniture. He made a lot of different pieces like the sewing chest but his most famous piece was a tilt-top table. In 1864, he spent six months creating this table. It is made up of 20,000 pieces of different types of inlaid wood. The table was a gift for President Abraham Lincoln. Some wood in the table was split by President Lincoln himself.

 Unfortunately, Mr. Lincoln never received the table because, while the table was on display in Chicago, Lincoln was assassinated. Peter Glass was still able to get the table, known as the Presidential Table, to the Lincoln family and was sent a note of thanks from Robert Todd Lincoln. Today, some of Peter Glass’s tables are located in the Smithsonian and the tilt-top table he gave to Lincoln is located at the Illinois Governor’s Mansion.

What makes me proud is that my great, great ,great grandfather wasn’t just an extraordinary artist. He also crafted and gave a table to the President who abolished slavery. When I look at my grandmother’s sewing chest, I think about how beautiful it is, but I also think about what Peter Glass must have believed – that we are all equal – just like Lincoln believed.

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