There are lots of myths and urban legends about Washington, DC’s sites. The Lincoln Memorial is the home of the myths I hear most often form visitors (and some misinformed tour guides).
The first myth is that Lincoln’s hands make the American Sign Language symbols for the letters A and L. Some say this is because the sculptor, Daniel Chester French, had a child who was hearing impaired. Not true. French used molds of Lincoln’s hands made in 1860 as the source for his work, opening the right hand to make him appear more relaxed. This myth probably originated because French did do a sculpture of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, the co-founder of the first school for the deaf in the US, Washington’s own Gallaudet University.
The second common Lincoln Memorial myth is that French carved a profile of Robert E. Lee on the back of Lincoln’s head. Again, not true. Looking at the back of the statute is like looking at clouds – if you stare at them long enough who knows what you will see.
The other myth is that the fifty-seven steps leading to the chamber represent Lincoln’s age when he died. Once again, not true. Lincoln dies at 56. The number of steps have no significance other than it’s the number needed to get to the chamber.