Unlike her lifelike figures, Madame Tussaud was a real human being, a wax sculptor in 1770s Paris who became an art tutor at the Palace Of Versailles. During the French Revolution, she was forced to prove her allegiance to King Louis IVX by making death masks of executed aristocrats; lauded for her work, she eventually left for Britain with many of her works in tow. In the early 19th century, a showcase for her wax likenesses of famous -- and infamous -- contemporary figures was built in London; the Madame Tussauds brand has since become a popular global franchise, spreading across Europe to Asia, Australia and several American cities.
The Madame Tussauds in D.C. focuses largely on famous political figures; one of the most photographed wax figures here depicts Marion Barry, the city’s controversial (and now deceased) former mayor. All 44 past presidents are represented, as well as President Barack Obama. And in addition to famous Hollywood and sports stars, you’ll find a figure of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. Each hyper-detailed wax likeness at the museum is assembled by a team of sculptors and requires approximately 100 hours to create; for instance, each strand of a figure's hair must be individually set by hand.