• Margaret Gorman
    Margaret Gorman
     
     
    Over the course of just a few weeks in 1921, Margaret Gorman went from a teen playing marbles in her D.C. neighborhood to the most famous beauty queen in the country.
  • Strange But True
     
     
    The Italian dictator was captured, executed and buried in his home country in 1945. So why did his brain end up at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington?
  • Helen Hayes
    Desegregation in Washington
     
     
    Helen Hayes is known for her acting, not her activism. But in 1948, she was one of many artists who took a stand against segregation in D.C. theaters.
  • Kate Chase
    Kate Chase
     
     
    In the latter 19th century, Kate Chase was known all over the country as Washington's most beautiful and influential woman.
  • Passengers on DC streetcar.
    Public Transit
     
     
    As the District moves to revive the electric streetcar, here's a look at the technology's history in the area.
Photograph of Mary Church Terrell as a young adult.

Impressions of Washington: Mary Church Terrell’s Activism

Educator, author, and activist Mary Church Terrell was the first president of the National Association for Colored Women, the first African-American woman elected to a major city school board, and a founding member of the NAACP. A lifelong advocate for equality, Terrell participated in sit-ins well into her eighties. But out of all of her activism, one 1906 speech stands out as an insightful and damning critique of racial dynamics in the nation's capital.

Richard Nixon shaking hands with Reverend Sun Myung Moon

A Watergate Christmas Tree Lighting

The  first National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony took place in 1923. The ceremony was intended to foster a sense of national unity around the Holiday season, but 1973 was different. President Nixon, embroiled in the Watergate scandal and dealing with an energy crisis, used the ceremony as a platform for political theater. As the President talked up his adminstration's achievements and legislative agenda for the coming year, an impromtu political rally in support of the President broke out.

Not only were the President's remarks different in nature, the tree was as well. As Americans across the country had to tighten their belts with regards to energy, the energy crisis prompted organizers to significantly reduce the amount of lights upon the tree itself as well as begin a new tradition of using a living, rather than cut, National Christmas Tree.

Women playing Mah Jongg in Washington, December 30, 1922. (Source: National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)

Before Pokemon Go There Was Mah Jongg

"Having once acquired the taste for playing, a frenzy creeps over one and you seek opportunities for playing the game like a thirsty man…. Time means nothing…. midnight passes by unnoticed."

The symptoms sound familiar. But, nearly 100 years before anyone dreamed up Pokemon Go – or smart phones for that matter – another craze was taking D.C. by storm: Mah Jongg.

Grace Slick (Source: Wikipedia)

That Time Grace Slick Tried to Slip LSD to President Nixon

Nixon, a career politician known for his rather stilted mannerisms and stoic demeanor, was seen as humorless and uncaring by the counterculture. As a result, he was the butt of many jokes. Some of the nation’s counterculture writers and artists mused what it would be like if Nixon ever took LSD. Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick took it upon herself to find out when Nixon's daughter, Tricia, invited her to a tea party at the White House in 1970.

The Alexandria Retrocession of 1846

1835 map of the District of Columbia.

We have the states of Maryland and Virginia to thank for the land that created the nation’s capital and the greater District of Columbia. It was through their cession of territory via the Residence Act of 1790 that Congress was able to establish a permanent home for a federal government that was up to that point rather itinerant. The 100-square-mile block called for by Congress that would constitute the District was made up of 69 square miles of territory from Maryland and another 31 square miles from Virginia. The District, which was organized by the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, organized the territory and officially placed it under the control of Congress. The bill was enacted on February 27, 1801, and almost from the moment of its passage, Virginia was looking for a way to get its territory back.

Anna J. Cooper (Source: Wikipedia)

Dr. Anna J. Cooper: MVP of D.C. Education

In the early 1900s, Dr. Anna J. Cooper, eschewed inherently racist notions that education for African American students should be solely vocational. Pursuing more classical studies, she pushed her students toward some of the best colleges and universities in the country, but her dedication raised the ire of the D.C. Board of Education.

Baltimore & Pennsylvania Railroad station. (Source: National Gallery of Art archives)

The Short-Lived Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Station on the National Mall

It may be hard to picture now, but the National Mall was once home to a lot of commercial and industrial development. Perhaps the most notable -- if also maligned -- site was a railroad station belonging to the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad. The station itself embraced a Gothic architectural style, but the train shed that extended from the station was considered an eyesore. It proved to be one (of many) motivations behind the 1901 McMillan plan to beautify and renovate America's front yard.

Lobbying at the Willard Hotel

Willard Hotel lobby in 1901 (Photo source: Library of Congress)

Washington, D.C. is a city rich in history with many stories to tell. Inevitably some of those stories take on a life of their own, even if the facts don’t necessarily back them up. For example, the story that the term “lobbyist” was created by President Ulysses S. Grant to describe the flocks of favor-seekers he encountered during his frequent sojourns to the lobby of the Willard Hotel.

Helen Hayes as Queen Victoria in 1936 (Source: Performing Arts Archives)

How Helen Hayes Helped Desegregate the National Theatre

There are two things that all D.C. residents love: the first lady and the performing arts. It’s no surprise then that in the capital, “First Lady of American Theatre” Helen Hayes is an icon. Born in 1900 in Washington D.C., Hayes’s career spanned nearly eighty years. She was the first EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) recipient to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan in 1986. But out of all her accomplishments, perhaps one of the most overlooked is Helen Hayes’s involvement in the desegregation of the National Theatre.   

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