Abraham Lincoln was just 56 years old, when he became the first American president to be assassinated. A global icon to reckon with, he not only led his country to victory in the Civil War, but also led to abolishment of slavery in U.S. A national hero, Lincoln was a confident leader, a caring humane soul and a great visionary. His immense contribution for the betterment of the nation and its citizens has been honored by the Americans in the form of Lincoln Memorial. One of the many monuments built to honor an American president, Lincoln Memorial is truly an epitome of reverence and respect. Such was Lincoln’s contribution that it is only fitting that America’s foremost memorial to its 16th
president is modeled on an ancient Greek Temple. In the following lines, we have provided some interesting and fun facts about the Lincoln Memorial.
Interesting & Fun Facts About Lincoln Memorial
- Even though demands for a memorial dedicated to Abraham Lincoln had began shortly after his death and a committee being setup for the same in 1867, the Lincoln memorial’s construction started only on February 12, 1914.
- The first person chosen to design the building in 1867 was American sculptor, Clark Mills, whose idea was a 21m structure adorned with 6 equestrian (a statue of a rider on top of a horse) and 31 pedestrian statues of huge proportions topped by a 3.7 m statue of Lincoln. This plan ceased to find any takers and was scrapped.
- The Potomac Park site and architect Henry Bacon's Greek temple design both faced multiple oppositions, before being finally settled for.
- A lot of changes were made in the initial plans for the structure. However, despite these, the memorial was finished on schedule and dedicated to American people on May Day in 1922.
- The memorial was one of the first buildings to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
- The exterior of Lincoln Memorial is made of Yule marble and is 57.8m long, 36.1m wide and 30 m tall.
- The structure is surrounded by 36 fluted Doric columns, representing the 36 states in U.S (prevalent at the time of Lincoln’s death). 2 more columns were added behind the colonnade at the entrance, taking total number of pillars to 38.
- On the frieze, above the colonnade, are inscribed the names of all 36 states and the dates when they joined the Union.
- The interior is divided into three chambers, using two rows of four (15m tall) Ionic columns. While north side chamber contains a carved inscription of Lincoln’s second inaugural address, the southern chamber boasts of his Gettysburg address.
- Above each of the inscriptions is an 18mX13.7 m mural painted by Jules Guerin which portrays governance in Lincoln’s lifetime. While the south side mural portrays the elements of freedom, immortality, justice, liberty and law, the north wall envisions unity, fraternity and charity.
- In the central hall sits the solitary figure of Lincoln on a citadel. Initially designed to be 3m tall, during the constructional phases the statue was enlarged to 5.8 m in both height and width. The statue is so huge that if it stands up it will be about 8.5 m tall.
- The statue was carved by the famous Piccirilli Brothers, under the supervision of renowned sculptor Daniel Chester French.
- The statue is made of Georgia white marbles, weighing a mammoth 158 tons and was shipped in 28 separate pieces.
- It took nearly four years for the statue to be completed.
- The pedestal on which the statue sits is 3m high, 4.9 m wide and 5.2m deep.
- Some claims suggest that General Robert E. Lee’s face is carved onto the back of Lincoln’s head on the statue, the profile is hidden in his hair and looks back towards General’s old home “Arlington house”, now part of Arlington national cemetery. It is ironical as General Lee was a Confederate army warrior and thus an enemy to Lincoln led Union.
- Another urban legend argues that Lincoln’s hands are actually forming shapes, which represent his initials “A” and “L” in sign language. This theory is supported by the fact that French knew American Sign Language and he might be paying tribute to Lincoln signing the federal legislation, giving Gallaudet University for deaf the authority to grant college degrees.
- The memorial has been a stage for historical events, such as a defiant African-American artist Marian Anderson performing on the steps of Memorial to an audience of seventy thousand, notwithstanding the nationwide radio audience. This was after being disallowed to perform at the Daughters of American Revolution Constitution Hall in 1939.
- These very same steps witnessed Martin Luther King Jr. deliver the historical “I have a dream” speech on August 28, 1963, as the ever silent Lincoln’s looked on. This event is such an important part of history that the spot on which King stood and delivered his speech (on the landing eighteen steps below Lincoln's statue), was engraved in 2003 in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the event.
- From 1959 (150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth) till 2008, the Lincoln Memorial was used on the reverse of the American one cent coin, popularly known as a ‘penny’. In 2009, four different reverses, all depicting life of Lincoln, replaced this and finally in 2010 ‘the Union shield’ replaced the Lincoln memorial permanently. However, the United States five-dollar bill, till date, uses the Lincoln memorial on the reverse, since 1929. The front of the bill carries the portrait of Lincoln himself.
- In 2007, the Lincoln Memorial was ranked seventh in the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.