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Peter Bradshaw says: "I always thought it was a purely Christian superstition based on the number attending the Last Supper. Walking under a ladder was thought to be defying the Trinity (as well as risking being hit on the head by a paintpot). The 13s like the number of states/people signing the Declaration of Independence must be a coincidence, and the symbolism on the dollar bill must surely be a deliberate evocation of the 13 states . I admire the fancy footwork of the star-counters as the number of states increases. The 13th amendment would have been significant for some group or other (particularly if it repealed the 5th)".
Here is my unverified hypothesis. In the secret sessions in Philadelphia, the Founding Brothers realized that the number 13 was an evil omen. So there was a heated discussion as to which state was the Judas and should therefore be thrown out. No state wanted to be given that role. Ben Franklin said the 13 business was pure superstition, so a deal was made. The number 13 would prevail if Ben would withdraw his proposal that the turkey rather than the bald eagle be the symbol of the US. The defeat of Ben's turkey proposal gave rise to the strictly American expression "It's a turkey", meaning it flopped.
George Sassoon has another theory: " It all goes back to the Thirteen Parts of the Beard of the Ancient of Days. See my book The Manna Machine (London 1978)". Not having read George's book, I haven't the faintest idea what he is talking about. He should be more explicit. Manna of course is the heavenly food the Lord provided, except on the Sabbath, when He was resting. The story is supposed to refer to some Near East insects which secrete a sticky honeydew. In either case, it cannot be produced by machine, unless you have a mechanistic view of the universe.
What about the Masonic theory? Derek Davis says: "If there were some Masonic significance to all this, it would be news to me. I have always understood that all of the symbolic 13's that you cite merely champion the 13 original colonies. One that you missed: 13 letters in the Latin phrase "Annuit Coeptis," which appears above the Pyramid, which means, loosely translated, "God has favored our undertaking." But of course they were looking ahead, too, to the expansion of the Union, thus the unfinished Pyramid." Paul Simon speaks with his usual authority: "It's all in honor of the 13 colonies, actually. Right Worshipful Paul M. Simon, PM, 32 degree". Of course, it could be another Masonic secret, in which case Paul would endanger his tongue were he to reveal it.
Les Robinson reports "The Hilton Hotel in Seattle has its registration facilities on the 13th floor!" An ingenious way of having no rooms on the 13th floor, but it must be a hassle for those whose room is on the second floor. Incidentally, One of the few things which annoys me is the common supposition that I own the Hilton hotels. The founder of that chain was a Norwegian who took my name without paying me a compliment or a cent. I wonder if he listened to the University of the Air?
Ronald Hilton - 8/2/02