Sure, the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument are must stops for visitors touring the nation's capital.

But what about Sonny Bono Park?

Or the Maine Lobsterman Memorial?

Or the Cuban Friendship Urn?

They're all here, as are scores of bronzes, shrines, pillars, plaques and monoliths dedicated to the unexpected and the obscure.

The father of homeopathy? He's got a monument. So does James Buchanan, regarded as among the nation's worst presidents.

And don't miss the Bernard Baruch Bench of Inspiration.

"I just came here because no one was sitting here," said Nikolai Paneck, an 18-year-old tourist. He was unaware that he was occupying a bench dedicated in 1960 to honor the financier and presidential advisor who liked to sit at this spot in Lafayette Park opposite the White House.

These monuments are like a lot of the politicians in this town — in search of recognition. They also illustrate how some topics (like temperance) and people (like inventor John Ericsson) hold and then lose the spotlight. And this being Washington, the success of some commemorative projects shows the ever-present power of influence.

Senators from Maine helped secure a site on the city's waterfront for the lobsterman tribute. A gift from a chapter of Camp Fire Girls, the monument features a 7-foot-tall bronze of a brawny mariner, complete with lobster.

The Cuban Friendship Urn, fashioned from fragments of a hurricane-damaged memorial in Havana to the battleship Maine, was donated to the United States when the countries were still on friendly terms.

Located just southwest of the Jefferson Memorial, the white marble urn depicting the sinking of the Maine and an eagle receives few visitors. The same goes for the salute to inventor Ericsson, a lonely outpost in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

The dedication in 1926 of the imposing granite statue of the Swedish-born inventor seated in deep thought drew President Calvin Coolidge and a crowd of 5,000. There was even a 21-gun salute from a gunboat in the Potomac River, a fitting tribute to the designer of the screw propeller and the Civil War ironclad warship Monitor.

Even if some monuments draw scant attention, historians say they are useful and important.

"It's a little bit like an outdoor history lesson," said Kirk Savage, a University of Pittsburgh professor of history of art and architecture who wrote a book about the monuments in the nation's capital. "They do have redeeming value in what they tell us about our past.

"These are all projects that were important to particular groups of people at particular times," he added.

Consider the Temperance Fountain.

The fountain, one of a number placed in cities in the 1870s and 1880s by San Francisco dentist Henry Cogswell to promote temperance, once dispensed water to discourage drinking of alcohol. California Sen. Sheridan Downey launched an effort in the 1940s to remove the fountain, which features entwined dolphins under a roof topped by a heron. He called it a monstrosity.

But Ulysses S. Grant III, the former president's grandson, who chaired the capital's planning commission then, sought to preserve it.

"Ugly, but interesting," he said at the time.