It says MDCCCII in the marble high atop the Lincoln Memorial, but as any Ohio seventh grader should know, the correct date is MDCCCIII. Steve Kunath of Parma, a Cleveland suburb, has asked his congressman to find out who goofed.
The Roman numerals that rim the memorial are supposed to represent the years in which the 36 states existing at the time of President Lincoln's death were admitted to the Union. The generally accepted year for Ohio is 1803 (the World Almanac lists a date of March 1, 1803).
But engraved in the memorial is 1802, a date noted with incredulity by the 28-year-old Kunath on a recent visit to Washington. He wrote Rep. Ronald Mottl (D-Ohio). After getting National Park Service historian Barry MacKintosh to make a check that sort of confirmed Kunath's version, Mottl wrote Interior Secretary James G. Watt asking that a correction be chiseled into the temple-like structure.
Ironically, among those who participated in the memorial's dedication in 1922 and failed to note the discrepancy were President Warren G. Harding and Chief Justice William Howard Taft, both Ohioans. Taft was chairman of the Lincoln Memorial Commission.
And why did MacKintosh's historical check not totally confirm the 1803 date? Some historians believe statehood began when the Ohio constitution was adopted in 1802. Moreover, somebody discovered in 1953 that -- incredibly -- Congress had failed 150 years earlier to pass a law actually admitting Ohio. So Rep. George Bender (R-Ohio) promptly introduced a resolution making it all legal retroactive to the 1803 date Kunath cited.