• Sketch of Lusitania being hit with German torpedo. (Source: Wikipedia)
    World War I
     
     
    When a German torpedo sank the Lusitania in May 1915, accurate news was hard to come by as Washington newspapers initially reported no casualties.
  • Test tubes containing bovine tubercular bacteria. (Source: Library of Congress)
    World War I German Sabotage
     
     
    During World War I, German saboteurs cultivated anthrax and glanders germ cultures in the basement of a home in Upper Northwest Washington, D.C.
  • American delegates to the International Congress of Women held in the Netherlands in 1915. (Source: Library of Congress)
    Women's Peace Party
     
     
    In 1915, 3,000 women gathered in Washington to create the Women's Peace Party and promote pacifism. Two years later, as the US readied to enter World War I, many saw them as unpatriotic.
  • John Lyon (Source: VFW Post 3150)
    World War I Hero
     
     
    Arlington's Lt. John Lyon gave his life for his country during World War I, and his final, selfless act lives on in the community's memory.
  • Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation Ship under construction in Alexandria (Source: Library of Congress)
    Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation, 1917-1922
     
     
    When WWI brought a shipbuilding boom to Alexandria, city residents rejoiced. However, their glee would be short lived.
  • Bomb damage to US Capitol, 1915. (Library of Congress)
    U.S. Capitol Bombing
     
     
    In a span of less than 12 hours, a German college professor set off a bomb in the U.S. Capitol and assaulted J.P. Morgan at his home on Long Island.

To Duck the Scold: One of Anne Royall's Washington Incidents

Anne Royall's headstone in the Congressional Cemetery

When Anne Newport Royall went to court in 1829 for being a “public nuisance, a common brawler and a common scold,” there were mixed feelings. Some celebrated the news that she was finally getting what she deserved, like the Aurora & Pennsylvania Gazette, which said, “All decent people will be happy to hear that the imprudent virago, Anne Royall, is at last in a fair way to meet her deserts.” (A virago, for reference, is a loud overbearing woman. This wouldn’t be the last time she’d be chastised for unladylike behavior.) Others likened her trial to the persecution of Galileo by the Catholic Church, claiming that she will never surrender.

Cartoon from the front page of the Afro-American newspaper, July 25, 1919.

Red Summer Race Riot in Washington, 1919

By all accounts, Saturday, July 19, 1919 was a hot, muggy night in Washington, D.C. The stifling heat probably didn’t help the disposition of patrons in the city’s saloons which, in this era of early-Prohibition, could only offer the tamest of liquid refreshments. (Though, undoubtedly many barflies acquired stiffer drinks at one of the city’s many speakeasies.) It probably didn’t help matters, either, that many of the soldiers and sailors who had recently returned home from the battlefields of World War I were struggling to find work.

The day’s Washington Times reported that Mrs. Elsie Stephnick, a white woman who worked in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, had been assaulted by “2 negro thugs” on her way home from work the previous evening. The paper noted, “This is the sixth attack made on women in Washington since June 25 and while the police are working day and night in an effort to arrest the negro assailant of the women, only two suspects are in custody.”

The Women's Peace Party and Pacifism During WWI

American delegates to the International Congress of Women which was held at the Hague, the Netherlands in 1915. (Source: Library of Congress)

Two years before the United States entered World War I, women in Washington were gathering to protest the practice. As The Washington Post put it, “War was declared on war.”

The Women’s Peace Party was formed January 10, 1915 at a conference at the Willard Hotel. Speakers included Jane Addams, a pioneer of social work and feminism, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the International Alliance for Women’s Suffrage, and other representatives from throughout the country, including two delegates from the District’s branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Over 3,000 attendees unanimously agreed on a “peace program,” to end the war practically.

Test tubes containing bovine tubercular bacteria. (Source: Library of Congress)

"Tony's Lab" and World War I Germ Sabotage in Washington

In the fall of 1915, Anton Dilger was looking for a house to rent in Washington. With the help of his sister, Jo, Dilger decided on a quaint white house in the 5500 block of 33rd St., NW, not far from Chevy Chase Circle. It was a comfortable place in a new neighborhood and had a basement that could serve as a home research laboratory. Anton proudly listed himself as a physician in the Washington City Directory, in effect putting out his shingle in the nation’s capital. However, Dr. Dilger didn’t see many patients. He was busy with more nefarious pursuits.

National Guard patrols Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of the 1968 riots. (Source: Library of Congress)

John Layton, the M.P.D., and the 1968 Washington Riots

By the time John Layton was named Metropolitan Police Chief in 1964, there was a well-established undercurrent of hostility between the Police Department and Washington's inner city African American community. Layton added resources to the Community Relations Unit and promoted the first African American to the rank of Captain. He created a Public Information Division to better coordinate communications with the public and the media. And, in an effort to recognize the African American community’s complaints about police brutality and harassment, the chief went on record that the Metropolitan police department would not rely on lethal force should they need to put down a riot.

Layton’s actions were put to the test on April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN that day, and when word reached Washington, D.C., angry crowds began gathering in the streets.

The Potomac's Houseboats of Ill Fame

The Potomac River waters near Alexandria, shown here during the Civil War, were filled with arks that offered a variety of illicit entertainments during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Image Source: Library of Congress)

If you thought pirates were the only ones able to get into trouble on the water, you’d be wrong. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Potomac River was full of boats – or arks as they were called – that provided all sorts of illicit temptations for parties that were so inclined. While efforts were made to enforce the laws of Virginia, Maryland and the District, the arks’ ability to float downriver to avoid authorities made them a persistent problem.

Chuck Berry performing on the television program "The Midnight Special," November, 1973. (Source: via Wikimedia Commons)

When Chuck Berry Had the Boss As His Opening Act

Rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, who passed away at age 90 on March 18, 2017, performed in the Washington area numerous times during his career, including a July 1979 performance at the White House for President Jimmy Carter. But one of his most memorable local shows came a few years earlier, on April 28, 1973, when he played a show at the University of Maryland with fellow rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis, and an opening act who would go on to become one of the biggest superstars in rock — Bruce Springsteen. 

The Silent Sentinels

Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house on "College Day" in 1917. (Source: Wikipedia)

At 10 o’clock in the morning on January 10, 1917, twelve women from the National Woman’s Party took up posts outside the White House entrances. They stood in silence, wearing purple, yellow and white ribbons, and holding large banners, which read: “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?”

The idea behind the vigil, which organizers planned to continue on a daily basis, was to make it impossible for the President to enter or exit the executive mansion without being confronted with the suffrage question. Though tame by today’s standards, The Washington Herald called the effort “the most militant move ever made by the suffragists of this country.”

By the fall, many of the picketers had been jailed and reports of prison abuse hit the newswires.

Judith McGuire (Source: FindAGrave.com)

Civil War Alexandria Through the Eyes of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire

When the Civil War began looming on the horizon, Judith Brockenbrough McGuire (1813-1897) was the wealthy wife of a prominent citizen in Alexandria, and like many on both sides of the conflict, she believed in a speedy and perhaps even non-violent end to the conflict. In the days leading up to the war, McGuire recorded in her diary the increasingly depressing landscape of Alexandria. Give it a read and take a step back in time!

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