The Hidden History of Grand Central Terminal’s Celestial Ceiling

Even before Grand Central Terminal officially opened on February 2, 1913 New Yorkers were teased with descriptions of the starry mural that had been painted on its vaulted ceiling, with the New York Times telling of its “effect of illimitable space” and how “fortunately there are no chairs in the concourse or…some passengers might miss their trains while contemplating this starry picture.”[1]  While the effect the painting has on commuters today is the same, the mural has undergone significant change.  In fact, it’s not even the same mural.

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The Great West Point Chain Hoax

Con artists were no strangers to early New York City.  At one time or another, nearly every major landmark in the city had been sold by a ‘matchstick man’ or grifter.  Around the turn of the twentieth century one such fraud was successfully performed by two men who targeted an artifact of slightly less renown: The Great West Point Chain.

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Image via Wikicommons user Ahodges7

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St. Louis, Missouri. Capital of the United States?

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Image used by CC-4.0, wikicommons user Daniel Schwen

While nowadays it seems a foregone conclusion that the United States capital city is Washington DC, for the first 100 years of the country’s existence it was hardly so defined.  The location, ten square miles straddling the Potomac River with portions in both Maryland and Virginia, was established by law in 1790 with the Permanent Seat of Government Act (legislation recently dramatized by the song “The Room Where It Happens” from the musical Hamilton), but this didn’t satisfy all Americans.  Over the course of the young country’s first century, the topic of where to locate the capital would come up three more times.

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“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

“There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.'”

Stephen King took Childe Roland from Robert Browning who got it from Shakespeare. So where the heck did Shakespeare get it from?  In this episode of “Bookworm History” we’ll delve into the stories behind the tale of “Childe Roland” and examine the changes it went through on its way to King’s “The Dark Tower” epic!  Click on the title card below to check it out!
Childe Roland Mark II