A moment in time

What Independence Day related installation helped the Legion bring American history to life?

The "Founding Fathers" exhibit, which occupied most of what is now the fine-arts gallery on the fourth floor of National Headquarters from 1991 to 2003. Two massive dioramas depicted Thomas Jefferson’s Philadelphia home in 1776 and the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in 1787. Within the dioramas were 41 realistically painted 20-inch-tall figurines — a few of which, via an electrical system, actually moved. The scene was flanked by reproductions of historical flags, paintings and documents. Audio commentary guided visitors through the exhibit.

The Legion acquired the exhibit in 1991 via a donation by Francis B. Messmore. Messmore, a Legionnaire who died in 1997, was then president of Messmore & Damon Inc., a scenery-design firm prominent in the early days of animatronics. While at National Headquarters, the exhibit welcomed many tours, especially those of schoolchildren. The Legion dismantled and stored the exhibit in 2003 due to a lack of space and dilapidation of the exhibit’s elements; but an 2009 National Executive Committee resolution authorized the Legion to dispose of the exhibit. It was ultimately donated to the city of Greensburg, Ky.

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