Grand Central’s Fly-On-The-Wall (Or Technically, the Ceiling)

Arguably one of the most famous ceilings in the world, the mural high above Grand Central Terminal’s main concourse is as fascinating as it is awe-inspiring.  While much has been written about it (yes, it is mostly backwards and no, no one’s really sure why Orion’s turned the way he is) one detail that seems to be overlooked is in hidden in plain sight, the proverbial fly-on-the-wall.  Or in this case, a fly on the ceiling.

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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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