Urban Legends of the Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial was build to honor the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln. Congressional approval for a memorial was difficult to obtain, and after several failed bills in the Taft administration, construction finally began on the memorial in 1914 under the Woodrow Wilson administration. The memorial was finished in 1922 and was presented to President Harding by President Taft who accepted the memorial on behalf of the American people. Abraham Lincolns only remaining son – 79 year old Robert Todd Lincoln was in attendance to the dedication.

Lincoln Memorial being constructed in 1916.

The Lincoln Memorial being constructed in 1916. source: wikipedia.org

The exterior of the Lincoln Memorial looks like a classic Greek temple. The memorial has 36 columns, which represent the 36 states in the United States when President Lincoln died. Above those columns is a frieze which has all 36 states engraved into the stone, along with the dates in which they entered the Union. Above this is the attic frieze which has an inscription of the 48 states present at the time of the Memorial’s dedication. Higher than the attic frieze is garland, joined with ribbons and palm leaves, supported by the wings of eagles.

Urban Legend

Sign Language

Urban Legends of the Lincoln Memorial
The American sculpture Daniel Chester French was responsible for the Abraham Lincoln memorial. His previous work also was the Gallaudet and Alice sculpture at Gallaudet University. It is said that the hands of seated Abraham Lincoln form a “A” and an “L” in sign language. The left hand shape of the statue can be ambiguously read as the letter A but the other hand is vague. Even though it’s not exactly letter “L”, it is closer to the letter than any alphabetical letter on the hand. His index finger appears to be slightly lifted. There is no documentation of the sculptor’s intention but he was a father of a deaf son. Certainly a motive to quietly include sign language into the memorial. You be the judge.

Robert E. Lee Face

Urban Legends of the Lincoln Memorial
As the legend goes, you can see Robert E. Lee emerging from the back of Lincoln’s Head. If you go around to the right side of Lincoln, and look on the back of the head, you’ll see Lee’s profile in the Lincoln’s lock of hair. Lee is gazing across the river at his house, now preserved as the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Such a popular rumor that the Park and Services address their on their website:

No such carving was done intentionally, but the myth persists to this day. The fact remains that several visitors claim to find all sorts of profiles within the tufts of Lincoln’s hair.

Four Scores and 7 Steps

Urban Legends of the Lincoln Memorial
A great website DC Like a Local has a theory about exactly 87 steps to the Lincoln Memorial. Park Services also declares this as untrue, but the facts are interesting.

Location: Steps
Lincoln Memorial Chamber to “I Have a Dream” Landing 18
“I Have a Dream Landing” to base 23
1st set of steps 3
2nd set of steps 3
3rd set of steps 3
Steps to the road 3
First Flight 10
Second Flight 10
3rd Flight 9

Feel free to verify my work, but I get 58 to begin. With the two additional flights of ten and one of nine, making a grand total of 87.

With his photo evidence, it’s a compelling argument, still the Park Services deny this myth.

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