Saturday, February 16

Capitol Myths

If you have ever taken the United States Capitol tour you have probably heard about the whispering room where John Q. Adams heard all the strategy of his senate opposition across the room because of the unique shape of the building. Well, John Q.'s scoop just never happened.

The Hill explains some more:
Many interns who give tours say they make up stories all the time when
they don’t know answers to questions. Staff have admitted to feeding
outright lies to interns coming in, just to make them look like fools.
Many professional guides in the Capitol Guide Service are appalled,
viewing staff guides as abusers of American history. The Guide Service offers training to staffers and interns, but myths about the Capitol persist. One
of the red-shirted tour guides of the Guide Service who spoke
anonymously recounted in red-hot fury the myths he has heard in his
decade-plus as a tour guide. Guides are not permitted to go on record
to the press. He described another of Trumbull’s paintings
hanging in the rotunda, depicting George Washington’s resignation as
commander of the U.S. Army. He recalled one aide explaining that
Washington apologized to Congress for losing the Revolutionary War. In
Statuary Hall, a likeness of Hawaiian king Kamehameha is striking with
its gold draping. The story goes that the statue of the king arrived at
the Capitol naked, and that the piece was sent back to Hawaii to be
clothed — which is false. The Hawaiian delegation was furious when they
found out about the propagated myth in 2003, calling it “highly
insulting” that Kamehameha was portrayed with so little dignity.
Unfortunately, the story is still told, as interns repeat it day after
day in full historical confidence.Perhaps because Hawaii is so
far from the continent, it’s easy for staffers to mangle its history.
Another subject of myth is a statue of a Hawaiian, Father Damien,
standing on the main hall on the House side. Damien lived and worked in
a leper colony and died of leprosy. As one staffer led her
tour by the statue, she explained, “He had to wear a box under his
clothes so they wouldn’t rub his skin off.” Many others passed by and
said the same thing to nodding listeners. The statue is, yes, boxy due
to the artist’s style, but Damien never wore a box under his clothes. Back
in the Rotunda, a staffer insisted that the rotunda is 340 feet high
(it’s 180). Many say that the Statue of Liberty can fit inside, which
is only technically true if you discount the 150-foot base that the
statue stands on in New York, which makes it 305 feet tall,
significantly larger than the size of the rotunda.