I have a particular fondness for “groundbreaking” and ribbon-cutting photos.  Everyone always looks so happy!  Sadly, we do not have any ceremonial groundbreaking shovels in our collections, but we do have this pair of scissors, used in 1954 to “open” a section of what we now know as Interstate 270. 

These sterling silver-handled scissors – ten inches long – were made by the Vosscut Co., Germany, and sold by Samuel Kirk & Son.  The scissors are conveniently engraved with an historical summary: “Governor Theodore R. McKeldin / Washington National Pike Fourth Section / Dedicated September 15, 1954.”  We were pretty excited to get this donation in October 1954, so even without that handy inscription, we can learn a lot from our own organizational archives.

Interstate 270 started out as the Washington National Pike, intended to connect Frederick and Rockville.  Surveying was done immediately after the war (remember the surveying plumb bob?) and ground was broken in 1950.  The “fourth section” dedicated with these scissors consisted of a 3.7 mile stretch from Clarksburg (Rt 121) to Germantown (Rt 118); since the “dual highway” was built from north to south, travelers from Frederick had to take 118 to what is now Rt 355 in order to continue to Rockville and points south.

That brings us to the confusing road numbers.  Route 355 was, at that time, Route 240.  The Washington National Pike became New US 240, and 355 became Old US 240/US 355.  By the 1960s, (new) 240 was called 70-S, and by the late 1970s, it was I-270.  This adds a little excitement to researching places along the 270/355 corridor: when it says “Route 240,” which one does it mean?  (Interested in more road/route/transportation history? Visit our library!  Lots of interesting things await you!)

Back to our scissors.  According to newspaper reports, several state dignitaries were on hand to watch the Governor ceremonially sever the black and gold ribbons.  (Alas, I have not yet found any photographs of the momentous dedication of the Fourth Section, and the bits of ribbon that were originally tied to the scissors were gone by the time I took this job.)  For road and/or construction buffs, I also offer the following bit of info from the Washington Post, September 15: “Contracts have been awarded by the Commission for the construction of bridges, interchanges and roadway to carry the highway as far as Rockville. These new sections should be open to the public in 1955, the Commission said. The 3.7-mile section to be opened Wednesday was built by the Williams Construction Company at its low bid of $1,632,193. Work began last October 1.”

The following month, Governor McKeldin donated the scissors to the Historical Society in a special ceremony (held, for no discernible reason, in Kensington).  Mrs. Helen P. Weedon, MCHS Program Chairman, received the scissors on our behalf.  In our archives, we have her handwritten speech accepting the scissors, and then another speech for reporting to Society members at the next meeting.  There are also numerous clippings from local papers, saved in our scrapbooks, that tout the Governor’s generous donation.  (One newspaper does add, as a rather pointed aside, that McKeldin was “campaigning for reelection in the suburban areas;”  he was in a heated race against Democrat H.C. Byrd.   I guess donating a pair of ceremonial scissors was an easy way to gain some good PR.)

But wait, the story does not end there!  Further perusal of our archives brought to light this additional chapter.  In November 1970, the Historical Society renovated the old 1940s garage next to the Beall-Dawson House to serve as a small museum and library.  At the opening ceremony, according to our newsletter, “[Rockville’s] Mayor Tuchtan cut the ribbon with silver scissors used by Governor McKeldin at the opening of the 4th Section of National Pike – and they still work!”  Yay, they work… wait, you aren’t supposed to use/wear/play with the accessioned collections!  Oh well, those were the days.  The scissors do not appear to have come to any harm, and perhaps they enjoyed their (presumably last) moment of action. 

From our scrapbooks: A Sentinel photo, October 15, 1970.  You can’t see the scissors (though you can make out the cut ribbons) – I offer this instead for any of our regular patrons who don’t remember the pre-renovation days of the Library.  Yes, that is our library.

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