There has been much in the news recently about a truncated version of a quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial statue that overlooks the Tidal Basin in the District that some have said makes King sound arrogant. The National Park Service has decided to remove the edited quote a year after the statue was dedicated. The List this week looks at other mistakes that proved costly on other monuments and statues throughout the United States.
- 12. Chicago firefighters memorial — There were 20 men named George inscribed on the Chicago firefighters memorial unveiled in 2004 that included more than 530 names. Three of them were incorrectly named Geroge, and one person was named Chrles.
- 11. Vietnam Veterans Memorial — There are more than 58,000 names engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when it was erected in 1982 and 105 to 112 names were misspelled. Some families had to wait 30 years for names to be corrected.
- 10. Christopher Columbus — A 311-foot bronze statue of Columbus at the wheel of the Santa Maria had a major historical mistake. The bronze steering wheel in front of Columbus was invented in the early 1700s, about 250 before years Columbus’s voyage of 1492. The doomed 600-ton statue, created in 1991 by Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ 1492 arrival in the Americas, has yet to find a home. It was planned to stand at the Port of Miami, but for the last 20 years it has been shuffled from one locale to another and now sits in pieces in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
- 9. Gettysburg — Mississippi was left off a 1994 memorial honoring states that had troops fighting on the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. Kentucky, which sent no soldiers to the to the three-day battle, got its name carved in the $500,000 granite-and-bronze memorial to honor Masons who fought in all wars. The Pennsylvania Monument, the largest memorial in the park, honoring 35,000 soldiers, was reported to have gone through 945 corrections in the four years after it was erected in 1910.
- 8. Maryville, Tenn. — A $206,000 bicentennial monument dedicated in the city of Maryville, Tenn., in 1995 was riddled with errors. George H.W. Bush was left out of a listing of presidents, the location of the Second Battle of Bull Run was incorrect, the names of former mayors were misspelled and 1965 was noted as the year the United States began bombing North Korea. This should have been North Vietnam, since the Korean War started 15 years earlier.
- 7. Arizona Memorial — A World War II memorial at the Arizona Memorial visitor center in Honolulu, dedicated “in remembrance of those who made the supreme sacrifice,” listed Pfc. George W. Baker, who survived the war and retired in Florida. The porcelain memorial also had more than 50 misspelled names, wrong ranks and incorrect duty stations etched on it.
- 6. Maryland World War II Memorial — Overlooking the Severn River and Naval Academy, the memorial was found to have numerous errors on its stainless steel plaques. The date of the Japanese surrender was Sept. 6 and not Sept. 2. The island of Okinawa was depicted like Iwo Jima, “an eight square mile lump covered with deep volcanic ash.” And the attack on Pearl Harbor was described as “a day which will live in infamy,” instead of “a date which will live in infamy.”
- 5. Babe Ruth — The Great Bambino was a lefty, but you wouldn’t know if by looking at a bronze a 9-foot, 800-pound statue of Babe Ruth unveiled in front of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1995. Ruth is depicted leaning on a bat and clutching a right-handed fielder’s glove on his hip. Susan Luery, who sculpted the statue, was sent the mitt from the Babe Ruth Museum and thought Ruth wore it. In fact she had been a vintage glove similar to the one used by Ruth, but oppositely handed.
- 4. Baltimore’s George Washington monument — The George Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon area of Baltimore completed in 1829, had an inscription listing the president’s 1789 inauguration as March 4. Washington was actually inaugurated April 30. The error was noted in 1985 and the inscription was corrected.
- 3. Four Corners Monument — Tourist are often seen taking snapshots with their hands and feet in four different states at the same time at this famed location, but in 2009 surveyors acknowledged that the Four Corners monument was not located at the exact spot where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah come together. The marker is 1,807.14 feet east of where it should have been placed.
- 2. Edgar Allan Poe — A misquotation from the poem “The Raven” on the Edgar Allan Poe memorial in Baltimore stood uncorrected for nearly a decade until someone corrected it in 1930, albeit illegally. The offending quote read: “Dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before,” should have read, “Dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” On May 29, 1930, Edmond Fontaine arrived at Wyman Park with a hammer and mason’s chisel and chipped off the offending letter “S”. Fontaine was arrested and spent a night in jail. Charges were dropped against him after a decedent of Poe called to ask that leniency be shown. In 1983, the statue with a new plaque was moved to the University of Baltimore’s plaza.
- 1. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial — It was decided by the National Park Service that a disputed inscription from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial will be removed rather than cut into the granite to replace it with a fuller quotation. For months, some observers, including poet Maya Angelou, said the truncated version of the quote — “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness” — was a disservice to King, whose memorial was dedicated by President Obama on Oct. 16, 2011. The full quotation was taken from a 1968 sermon about two months before King was assassinated. It reads: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: The Baltimore Sun, lifeslittlemysteries.com, Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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