How Much Do You Know about the Lincoln Memorial?

On May 30, 1922, former President William Howard Taft dedicated the Lincoln Memorial to honor the memory and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States.  Try your luck with our trivia questions to test your knowledge of this iconic monument and the man it honors...


How Was the Design for the Memorial Chosen? # The central feature of the Lincoln Memorial is the 19-foot-tall sculpture of the 16th president by Daniel Chester French. In 1867, only two years after Lincoln's death, Congress passed a bill to create a commission to plan and erect a monument honoring the 16th president. Chosen by the commission to design the memorial was sculptor Clark Mills. He proposed a 70-foot structure featuring six equestrian and 31 pedestrian statues, all dominated by a 12-foot statue of Lincoln. Unfortunately, efforts to raise sufficient funds for the project were unsuccessful, and the commission was eventually disbanded. With it died the proposed design of Clark Mills.

Then, early in the 20th century, Senator Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois led an effort to restart the campaign for a memorial to Lincoln. In the first decade of the 1900s, six bills were introduced calling for the establishment of another commission to undertake the memorial project. Although the first five bills failed, the sixth, introduced on December 13, 1910, passed, and the new Lincoln Memorial Commission met for the first time a year later. Not long thereafter, commission members approved a design proposed by architect Henry Bacon, which is essentially the monument as it looks today. Although Bacon was a successful architect with many monuments, public buildings, and statuary bases to his credit, his most famous -- and final -- project was the Lincoln Memorial. 

Was There Any Controversy about the Proposed Design? Not everyone was happy with the Lincoln Memorial Commission's plan for the monument, many arguing that the grandeur of Henry Bacon's Greek temple design was out of step with the humble man it was designed to honor. Some of the people in this camp suggested a simple log cabin shrine might be a more fitting memorial to Lincoln. Others quibbled with the commission's decision to locate the monument on land that had recently been reclaimed in West Potomac Park. Some said the land was too swampy, while others argued the site itself was not easily accessible. 


What Is the Significance of the Memorial's 36 Columns? The peristyle or open colonnade that graces the exterior of the Lincoln Memorial is made up of 36 columns, one for each state of the Union at the time of Lincoln's death in April 1865. At the time of the memorial's 1922 dedication, the Union had grown to 48 states, all of which are listed on one of the memorial's walls. Alaska and Hawaii, both of which joined the Union in 1959, are represented on a plaque that is also displayed on the same wall. 

Each of the 36 fluted Doric columns in the memorial's peristyle has a base diameter of 7.5 feet and a height of 44 feet. The columns are made of limestone that was quarried in Indiana. The exterior of the memorial building itself is made of Yule marble, found only in the Yule Creek Valley of Colorado. 

Were Any Lincoln Family Members Present at the Dedication Ceremony? Robert Todd Lincoln, the firstborn of Abraham Lincoln's four sons and the only family member to survive into the 20th century, was a guest of honor at the dedication of the memorial to his father. Although the 78-year-old Lincoln made no remarks at the ceremony, he received an ovation from spectators as he took his seat. 

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