Thursday, August 22, 2013

Answer: Masons, Presidents, and Star Wars?

So... this was fun, yes?  
As many readers pointed out, a fairly simple search for:  
     [ us presidents African Inland Mission at Kijabe ] 

leads to the Billy Graham Archives at suggesting it was Theodore Roosevelt who visited the African Inland Mission.  A quick check to see if Roosevelt was a Mason: 
     [ Roosevelt Mason ] 
quickly confirmed that fact.  (Lots of sites, non-redundant versions of the information, including several authoritative sites.)  
Now, did he lay the cornerstone at the Kijabe African Inland Mission?  
     [ Roosevelt Kijabe cornerstone ]
takes me to a NYTimes article (Aug 5, 1909) saying that he laid the stone the day before (with son Kermit... imagine.. a time when the name Kermit was a serious male name!).  
By poking around a bit, I found a pretty informative photo of the stone itself: 

I found this by just looking up Kijabe, Kenya in Google Maps, then turning on the Photos option (bottom right of the Maps UI).  This option shows photos contributed (and geolocated) by Panaramio.  
From Google Maps with photos turned on.  Link.

Now, can we find a picture of Roosevelt laying this stone?  Sure. 
Just redoing the first search in Google Images yields this image from the Wheaton Archives. 


What large building has a Star Wars character sculpted on it? 
Regular Reader Ramón has a great suggestion for a query: 

     [ teddy roosevelt cornerstone starwars carved ] 

This worked really well, but for an interesting reason. 
Here's the best result on the page in response to Ramón's query: 

Note that the search word "teddy" was synonymized to "Theodore" and that "carving" was changed to "carvings."  If you run this query, you'll also note that "starwars" gets converted to "Star Wars."  This is a nice example of Google's synonymization system helping out.  (And remember that if you REALLY want "teddy" you'll have to put it in quotes.  
If you used Control-F on the Wikipedia article and looked-for "Star" you'd find that the National Cathedral has a grotesque carving of the Star Wars character Darth Vader on the northwest tower.  
This beautiful side-by-side is from iO9.  
And yes, Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the National Cathedral.  To find an image of that, you could do a search like: 
     [ theodore roosevelt national cathedral cornerstone ] 
and then search through the photos to find one at the American Institute of Architects. (AIA)  

Or.. you could use the approach that Regular Reader Jon (the Unknown) followed.  He did a search for the date of the cornerstone laying: 
     [ [September 29, 1907 roosevelt ] 
and found this image on the Cathedral's website: 

It's pretty clearly the same event--the laying of the cornerstone by Roosevelt before a crowd of 10,000 people.  (Remember, this was in the days before amplification.  A politician had to have a strong voice to be heard.)  

1.  Which US president was this?
Answer:  Theodore Roosevelt, on August 4, 1909. 

2.  Can you find a picture of him laying the cornerstone of the Mission and can you find a picture of him laying the cornerstone of the building with the Star Wars character? 
Answer:  See above. 

3.  (Extra credit)  Which direction is the Star Wars character looking?  
Now that we know that Darth Vader is on the NW tower, which direction is he looking from the NW tower?  
I was hoping that the cathedral would have something about the Darth Vader sculpture (called a "grotesque"), so I did this search: 
     [ Darth Vader ] 
(possibly the oddest combination of search terms EVER!)... but was rewarded with a lovely PDF file that gives the following directions to seeing Darth Vader:  " find Darth Vader, you have to leave the building through the ramp entrance... go down the ramp, step onto the grass to your right.  Turn around and look up at the tower."  
There's even a spotting guide that locates the grotesque on the tower near the top. 
The Cathedral also has an interactive "Gargoyle Spotting Map"
By looking at the diagrams and external photography of the Cathedral, it's not hard to determine that Darth is heading at a 45 degree angle to the northern eastern face of the building on the NW tower.  
When I draw out that line from the map, it looks pretty much as though he's staring directly northwest  northeast and maybe a touch W-by-NW.  

The Darth Vader grotesque is on the eastern face of the northwest tower
of the National Cathedral.  This is his sight-line from his perch. 

Search lesson:  Any one step of this challenge wasn't that hard, but linking them all together is a bit of work.  I also appreciated Jon's use of a date in a search (when you really know the date) to look for images of that event.  Ramón's clever search for ALL of the terms let him zero in on the target quickly.  (Although you have to be ready to accept that this didn't work, and incrementally remove terms if your search is overconstrained.)  
And lastly, integrating across all of the information sources let us determine where Darth Vader is on the cathedral, and in which direction he's facing.  

Search on! 


UPDATE:  Aug 22, 6:55AM PDT.  Jon (the Unknown) found that I'd made a rotation error. Darth is looking northeast, not northwest as I'd said earlier.  My error.  I've updated the text above.  


  1. Dan I believe your information as to Darth Vader's location is incorrect. That pix is wrong. This one
    clearly shows DV on the back of the NW tower and looking North East. It is a photo based.
    Take a look.

    Jon the Unknown

    1. By gum, you're right. Thanks for pointing this out! (I accidentally rotated it in my head: My error.)

    2. be ye a northener Dan?
      ee by gum
      or from Yorkshire?

  2. Actually, I think WNW was correct. I googled "washington national cathedral" and pulled up street view and there are a couple of photo sets from around the northwest tower, including a series taken from ground level standing west of the tower's western corner, zooming in on Darth Vader, who is looking at the camera (which was west of the northwest tower):

  3. Good Morning, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers.

    It was fun and intersting with lots of learning.

    Great finding Dr. Russell with the real cornerstone of Kijabe. How many of these now famous stones will have images like the one you found? I guess not so much. Also I like your answer about Darth Vader looking point.

    When I used Teddy instead of Theodore, I believe that I was influenced for the fact that the famous bears are called "Teddy" for the President Roosevelt. History of the Teddy Bear

    Have an excellent day!

  4. Dan, That interactive gargoyle map is wrong. Using that you did not make a mistake yourself. I just found an excellent site which shows beautifully that the thing is on the East side of the tower:

    jon the unknown

    1. Jon -- That's a truly excellent update. The zoom makes it clear -- the thing is on the eastern face of the NW tower, sitting at 45 degrees to the face of the tower... meaning Dark looks NE.

      Nicely found!

  5. Hi Dr, Russell and everybody!

    Looking for more data about this SearchResearch Challenge, I tried [darth vader Washington Cathedral coordinates] and found:

    Interesting data, just some of them:

    a. Washington National Cathedral (officially named the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul)

    b. Has a Space Window, honoring man's landing on the Moon, which includes a fragment of lunar rock at its center.

    c. Washington National Cathedral's pulpit was the last one from which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke prior to his assassination in 1968

  6. To be a strange thing lord vader's head on an earthly cathedral seems, mellifluous thing, his limestone silence is. Yes, hmmm.
    "Dictionary service google. Herh herh herh." M.Yoda

  7. Good Day, Dr. Russell and everybody

    Searching for more information about this challenge found Darth Vader Grotesque coordinates

    I tried them in in Google Maps . Then used there "Earth View" and noticed that Dr. Russell and Jon the Unknown have the correct answer Darth looks at Northeast.

    Here is the image.

  8. As a child, I used to play hide and seek with my friends at RVA, Rift Valley Academy, in Kijabe, Kenya. I especially liked to hide under the front board walk that surounded a building called Kiambogo (meaning place of the water buffalo in Swahili). It was here, in 1975 that I came face to face with this corner stone. I was always in awe when I saw it. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

    Grayden M. Vaughan
    Toronto, Canada