Errors mar exhibit at Kentucky Capitol

Friday, November 9, 2007

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- To some, an exhibit ordered to be displayed in the Kentucky Capitol might seem more hysterical than historical.

The display lists the official U.S. motto, "In God We Trust," as having been adopted on two days; really, it was just once, on July 30, 1956.

And a plaque about the national anthem and the flag that inspired it proudly states: "The new song and the flag became known as 'The Star Spangled Banner' and became a rallying cry for the American patriots during the Revolutionary War."

But Francis Scott Key didn't write "The Star Spangled Banner" until 1814, after a battle at Maryland's Fort McHenry.

History professors found the goof particularly appalling.

"This is an egregious error and an example of sloppy historical thinking," said Jane E. Calvert of the University of Kentucky.

"If that's wrong, then what else?" asked the University of Louisville's Thomas C. Mackey.

On Monday, a day before he lost his race for re-election, Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed an executive order proclaiming the documents played important roles in developing the legal system and should remain on display until another governor or legal ruling forces them down.

Fletcher's spokeswoman, Jodi Whitaker, said the administration was "not aware of any inaccuracies" when the order went out for the exhibit, which includes framed copies of the Ten Commandments and the Magna Carta.

The Rev. Herschel Walker of Hopewell Baptist Church in Corbin, who donated the documents to the state last month, said he did not have an immediate response about the inaccuracies found at the Capitol. Earlier this week he said the display was meant as a tool for teaching children civic literacy.

The exhibit in the Capitol is identical to existing displays in the Mercer and Rowan county courthouses. Mercer County Judge-Executive John Trisler said he was not aware of any inaccuracies with the display, which has been up for about six years in his central Kentucky county.

"We do appreciate the display, and we get a lot of favorable comments about it," Trisler said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: