January 2013

Mr. Ford Goes to Washington

Tonight at 9pm on WETA Television, American Experience premieres a new documentary about Henry Ford, so we thought we’d look back upon one of Henry Ford’s more anticipated trips to D.C.

In April 1938, the country was still trying to pull itself out of the Depression and there was a lot of conversation and debate about the role of government in business. (Hmmm… Sound familiar?) So, when car magnate – and frequent critic of FDR’s regulatory New Deal policies – Henry Ford accepted the President’s invitation to come to the White House for a private luncheon and discussion, it was big news -- especially for one local Ford Motor Company super-fan.

Who Should Be the Nationals' New Racing President?

Alright, this is big news. Tomorrow, the Washington Nationals will announce a new Racing President to run against George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and longtime-lovable-loser-turned-late-season-winner, Teddy Roosevelt at each Nationals home game. D.C. is waiting with bated breath.

So, who will it be? Here at Boundary Stones headquarters, we've been debating the issue all week and identified a few leading candidates. Give these nominations a read and then tell us your vote in the comments below!

Impressions of Washington: "The head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva"

When Charles Dickens visited Washington in 1842, he had a lot to say. But, perhaps nothing caught his eye -- and ire -- as much as Washingtonians' obvious love of chewing tobacco.

As Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise, that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable, and soon became most offensive and sickening.

Apparently Predicting D.C. Weather Has Always Been a Fickle Business

Weren't we supposed to get snow today? At one point the word was that D.C. might get five or six inches... then it was down to an inch or two... then a dusting... now, nothing. It's a major disappointment for those of us who like the white fluffy stuff.

Well, it seems predicting the weather here has always been a little bit of a crapshoot. Check out this cartoon that ran on the front page of the Washington Evening Star newspaper exactly 100 years ago today, January 17, 1913.

A bunch of stocking-cap clad kids are ready to go sledding in Washington but, like today... NO SNOW, just clouds. I wonder if their grassroots "We Demand A New Weather Man" campaign had any impact?

Kudos to the folks at the D.C. Public Library's Washingtoniana division for pulling this gem out of the archives. If you haven't yet, go ahead and like them on Facebook. They are posting fun stuff like this all the time.

Impressions of Washington: A German Visitor to the Smithsonian in 1874

It's always interesting to read what visitors and residents of Washington have had to say about our fair city over the years.

In 1873, the Kölnische Zeitung (Cologne Daily News) asked German anthropologist Friedrich Ratzel to take a trip to the United States and write a series of articles about life in America. He reached Washington in the winter of 1874 and, as a scientist, was particularly interested in the Smithsonian building. See what he had to say.

Two Tragedies in One Day

It was snowing on the 14th Street Bridge and traffic had ground to a standstill as thousands of federal workers and other rush-hour commuters tried to get home ahead of a major storm. With an awful metallic crack, a blue-and-white jet swept out of the swirling snow at 4 p.m., smacked against one of the bridge's spans, sheared through five cars like a machete, ripped through 50 feet of guard rail and plunged nose first into the frozen Potomac River.

Moments later in a crowded subway car underneath the National Mall:

The train reversed direction.... with a loud popping and crunching sound and a sudden showering of sparks and electrical arcing.... Dozens of people of both sexes screamed. Slowly, surrealistically, the concrete abutment grew larger, closer and actually pressed the left center-rear of the car. The side and roof slowly caved in, almost as a foot crushes a tin can. More screaming, arcing, then silence.

It sounds like a scene in a Hollywood movie right before the hero or heroine springs into action. Tragically, however, this was no movie. It was real life in Washington on January 13, 1982.

A Congressional Beating: Sam Houston and William Stanbery

The well publicized incident between Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Harry Reid during the Fiscal Cliff negotiations was big news but it was hardly D.C.'s biggest dust up between members of Congress.

Let's turn back the clock to April 13, 1832. That evening, Congressman William Stanbery left his abode at Mrs. Queen's boarding house and went out for a walk along Pennsylvania Avenue. As he was crossing the street, he encountered Sam Houston -- then a Congressman from Tennessee -- and two members of the U.S. Senate who were on their way to the theater.

The chance meeting between colleagues was hardly serendipity.

Local History on Stage: A Conversation with Jacqueline E. Lawton, Playwright of OUR MAN BEVERLY SNOW

Local history isn't just for authors and documentary filmmakers. It's great fodder for artists, too!

Just ask playwright Jacqueline Lawton who is currently working on a drama production entitled OUR MAN BEVERLY SNOW, inspired by the 1835 race riot in Washington, D.C.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Jacqueline about the project and how she melds history and art on stage. Check out our conversation after the jump.

Java Shack (Photo by Mark Jones)

Nazis in Arlington: George Rockwell and the ANP

Today the small brick building at 2507 N. Franklin Rd. in Arlington is the home of the Javashack, a hip coffee shop with specialty brews, free wifi and – as one patron termed it – “left-leaning politics.”

This is quite a departure from the building’s previous life. From 1968-1984, this duplex was the national headquarters of the American Nazi Party. A swastika hung over the doorway (visible from busy Wilson Blvd. half a block away) and khaki-clad “storm troopers” occupied the space, developing anti-Jewish propaganda, proclaiming White Power and periodically clashing with neighbors.