• Elvis Presley in 1957
    Music History
     
     
    Elvis's first Washington area concert took place on March 23, 1956 when he headlined a floating concert on a Potomac River vessel.
  • Union Station under renovation. (Source: Library of Congress)
    Washington in the 1980s
     
     
    Once-grand Union Station was in sad shape by the early 1980s. But a bold renovation restored the architectural masterpiece.
  • Marian Anderson
    Civil Rights History
     
     
    Marian Anderson was famously barred from singing at Constitution Hall in 1939 because of her race, but eventually did perform there multiple times.
  • Countess Marguerite Cassini (Library of Congress)
    Countess Marguerite Cassini
     
     
    At the turn of the century, perhaps no one had a tighter grip on the Washington's diplomatic social scene than Countess Marguerite Cassini.
  • Brumidi's Apotheosis of Washington. (Photo source: Architect of the Capitol)
    Art History
     
     
    19th-Century Italian-American artist Constantino Brumidi's frescoes and murals can be seen throughout the U.S. Capitol.

Exploring Local African American History Beyond the New Smithsonian Museum

Exterior of the Anacostia Neighborhood/Community Museum (Source: Smithsonian Institution)

If you live in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and you are interested in visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) but have not secured tickets yet, this might be a great time to explore the many African American history focused museums, cultural centers and historic houses in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

Broadhead-Bell-Morton Mansion. (Source: National Register of Historic Places)

D.C.'s Ill-Fated Wedding of the Decade, 1903

For Washington socialites, the most anticipated event of the winter season arrived on January 19, 1903. The rooms of the Russian embassy were full to bursting with the best of the Capital. The entire diplomatic corps, the Cabinet, and the Supreme Court were in attendance. While downstairs guests were being shown to their places, the crying bride was being dressed in her finery upstairs. The Parisian gown was made of white satin and gold brocade, and just dripping with pearls. A mantel of lace fell from her shoulders, over a full court train, and a “misty veil of tulle” was fastened to her head with a coronet of orange blossoms. A wedding gift from the groom, a magnificent diamond collar with ruby clasps, encircled Irene des Planques neck. It might as well have been a noose.

High society ladies at 1904 Bazaar to benefit the Russian Red Cross.

D.C.'s 1904 Russian Bazaar

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?” That’s the usual refrain when your country is at war. But for Countess Marguerite Cassini, daughter of the Russian ambassador to Washington, the 1904-1905 war between Russia and Japan was a reason to have a two-day party. And if you say it’s for charity, why not?

Portrait of Marguerite Cassini by Frances Benjamin Johnston. (Source: Library of Congress)

Countess Marguerite Cassini: D.C.'s Diplomatic Social Butterfly

When Countess Marguerite Cassini first arrived in DC in 1898 during the McKinley administration, she accompanied the first Russian Ambassador to America, Count Arthur Cassini, as his 16-year-old “niece.” An air of mystery shrouded her origins, but as the oldest female relative of the ambassador, the “Countess” was the embassy’s official hostess. At state functions, she would be seated in the proper place for the Russian hostess -- at the top right below the British, French, and German hostesses. The wives of the diplomatic corps bristled to be placed beneath an unmarried teenager, who was thought to be “neither a [countess] nor, according to rumor, a Cassini.” To be fair, the Capital gossip wasn’t entirely wrong; young Marguerite wasn’t a countess, and the count was not her uncle. He was her father. But questions over her roots soon gave way to amazement over the Countess's command of the D.C. social scene, which she effectively ruled along with Alice Roosevelt.

1980s photo of Old Ebbitt Grill interior from Historic American Buildings Survey. (Source: HABS DC-315, Library of Congress)

Old Ebbitt Grill was Saved by Its Beer Stein Collection

Washington's Old Ebbitt Grill has served presidents, royalty, Washington luminaries, movie and television stars, and military heroes, and touts itself as being "the oldest saloon in Washington." However, it almost didn't survive the 1960s when the owners racked up a huge tax bill with the IRS. When the building went up for auction, it was purchased by Stuart Davidson and John Laytham who owned Clyde's restaurant and hoped to add Old Ebbitt's collection of antique beer steins to their establishment.

A Plane for Every Garage

Ercoupe plane. (Source: The Peter M. Bowers Collection/The Museum of Flight)

In the early days of aviation, aircraft designers and manufacturers like Henry Berliner envisioned a future in which everyone would have the opportunity to own and operate their own planes. Berliner struck out on his own in 1930 and founded the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO). Headquartered in northwest Washington, D.C., the company’s intent was to build tools for the manufacture of airplanes. Berliner’s real dream, though, was to make air travel accessible to the masses. In 1937, Berliner purchased 50 acres of land near the airport in College Park, Maryland where he built an airstrip and a large factory to manufacture ERCO’s new plane, the Ercoupe. It was a machine that might have made George Jetson proud.

Tractors in front of the Capitol

Tractorcade 1979

In February 1979, thousands of farmers from across the country — and their tractors — barreled into Washington to protest in favor of agriculture policy reform. They snarled traffic for several weeks, frustrating commuters. But public opinion began to shift when an unexpected blizzard buried the city under two feet of snow and the protesters took it upon themselves to plow city streets and ferry doctors and nurses to work.

Jeannette Rankin

The Jeannette Rankin Brigade

In 1916, Jeannette Rankin made history as the first woman elected to Congress. A renowned pacifist, Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in World War II. At age 87, Rankin made one final push for peace by leading an anti-Vietnam march: the Jeannette Rankin Brigade.

Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield

Clara Barton during the Civil War. Photo by Matthew Brady. (Source: Library of Congress)

She was one of the first female government employees, she was the first woman legally allowed on the battlefield in America, she founded the American Red Cross, and she chose to live out her days in Glen Echo, Maryland. Clara Barton, the unstoppable force of the 19th century.

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