5 Things You Didn't 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. Here are 5 things you probably didn't know about this iconic monument...


There Are 36 Columns The temple is surrounded by 36 Doric columns, each representing a state in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. The symbolism being that without the columns, the roof would fall; just like without the states, the nation would fall. Until the year 2008, the image of the Lincoln Memorial was seen on the back side of the U.S. penny.

Urban Legend Says He’s Signing Take a good look at Lincoln's hands at the memorial. They appear to be in different positions, and smart visitors have noticed that one hand is in a position that looks like the letter "A" in sign language, while the other looks a lot like the letter "L" -- as in Abraham Lincoln. Officially, this is just a coincidence. However, it's a nice story to ponder because Lincoln was the president who signed the charter for Gallaudet University, a university dedicated to teaching deaf students. Another popular myth is that there is a face hidden in the back of Lincoln’s hair, meant to immortalize the designer Daniel Chester French.


40% of The Monument is Underground When viewers bask in the 99-foot-tall, 202-foot-wide Lincoln Memorial, they’re really only seeing a little more than half of the construction. What many people do not know is that about 40% of the monument is actually underground. Rooted beneath the ground is the piece’s foundation, which extends 66 feet into the earth at its deepest point to help support the weight of the massive and heavy memorial site.

Construction Began on Abe’s Birthday Wouldn’t you love a giant memorial for your birthday? That’s exactly what architects Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon gave Abraham on February 12, 1914. Ground broke for the project 49 years after his death. In total, the construction took eight years, with work slowing during World War I due to material shortages. The memorial opened in 1922, just in time for a 78-year-old Robert Todd Lincoln -- the president's son -- to see the unveiling.

Four Score And Seven Steps It’s an impressive climb up the staircase to the chamber of the Lincoln Memorial, but perhaps you didn’t know that it’s also a very fitting climb. The ascent from the lip of the Reflecting Pool into the temple itself clocks in at exactly 87, or "fourscore and seven," marble steps.  In other words, four score and seven steps, reminiscent of the celebrated start of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Examine these steps closely as you climb; halfway up the staircase there’s a marked stone where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood while delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech.