July 2013

The Petticoat War

You’d better believe there have been "mean girls" since the beginning of time, or at least the early 1800’s. Rigid social structures dictated the behavior of Jacksonian high society; it was the height of rudeness, for instance, if a lady did not return your call. However, in a social war that engulfed the beginning of Andrew Jackson’s presidency, society’s rules were discarded and the national government ground to a halt all for one woman: the beautiful and intelligent Margaret “Peggy” O’Neil.

Lost History: Hungerford's Tavern

Apparently it was the place to be. Back in the day, Hungerford’s Tavern in Rockville, Maryland hosted and housed a number of big shots including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry – the list goes on and on.

Constructed around 1750, it was one of America’s first real taverns and was named after Charles Hungerford, one of the early owners. The tavern was the center of early Rockville and was the town’s popular hang out spot; the place you went for news, entertainment, business… and to fan the flames of Revolution.

July Deals: Free Admission to Three DC Museums

D.C. is by far the best city in the country for museum lovers. Although most of them are free to the public, a few have rather high admission fees. Luckily, for the month of July only, a few of the more costly museums are offering free admission. And who doesn’t like free stuff?!

This past Saturday, I headed to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment to take advantage of the awesome July deal. All you have to do is download Google’s Field Trip app and show the cashier the selected page. Simple as that.

The Strange Rock of Georgetown: Colonel Ninian Beall

Known by some as the founder of Georgetown, Colonel Ninian Beall was quite an interesting fellow. With fierce red hair he stood 6 feet 7 inches tall and he lived almost 3 times longer than he should have. (The average life expectancy was 35 and he lived to be 92). What a champ.

Born in 1625 in Scotland, Beall spent the first 27 years of his life living out scenes from an adventure film. While fighting in the Scottish Army, Beall was taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar and landed in a London prison. Shortly after, he and 149 others were shipped to the island of Barbados in the West Indies to live as indentured servants. Doesn’t sound much like the Caribbean vacations we think of nowadays.[1]

The Mystery of the Pope's Stone

On the evening of March 5, 1854, nine men associated with the Know-Nothing party snuck up to the base of the Washington Monument and made off with a rather hefty hunk of stone. The men carried the stone to a boat waiting on the tidal basin, smashed it into pieces and dumped it in the middle of the Potomac.

You may be curious as to why they (or we!) were interested in an old -- and probably really heavy -- rock. Where exactly did this stone come from and why was it such a big deal when it was stolen and destroyed? Maybe it was the fact that it came from the Pope... Just a guess.

All the Single Ladies

Around the turn of the century, Washington, D.C. had a distinct lack of single men. In any era before, the women of the city might have resigned themselves to the life of the scorned “old maid” in a corset and lived a boring existence with their parents until before finally dying. But not these ladies. No, starting in the late 1890s, many women in the capital city began to push for a more open society, pursuing higher education, living alone, and managing their own affairs. This was the dawn of the Bachelor Girl age.

Bachelor girls were a point of controversy in the Washington press. Some columnists were shocked and appalled with these independent ladies’ leaps into the future.

The Changing Landscape of Arlington As Seen by An Old DC Hiking Club

It’s a casual Sunday in April 1934 and you’re looking for something to do. How about a hike in the great outdoors? Lucky for you, there’s a new hiking club in town and they are preparing for their very first hike!

Earlier that year, German immigrant and nature enthusiast Robert Shosteck approached The Washington Post to inquire if the paper was interested in creating a partnership. Shosteck offered to write multiple columns each week on various outdoor topics in exchange for The Post’s sponsorship of a new hiking club, which he called The Wanderbirds.[1]

Dr. S.M. Johnson with Zero Milestone. (Photo source: Library of Congress)

All Roads Lead to Washington: The Zero Milestone

No doubt you are familiar with D.C.’s most prominent tributes to history -- the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, possibly even that unique sculpture of Einstein lounging on Constitution Avenue. But have you ever heard of the Zero Milestone? Standing next to the White House, this small monument is easily missed, but it holds a tremendous amount of history, all contained in a 2x4 hunk of granite…well, actually it extends out a little farther than just that spot.

Impressions of Washington: A Georgetown Fourth of July in the 1850s

With the Fourth of July festivities just around the corner, area residents are preparing for the merriment in all sorts of ways.

What is your pleasure? Grilling out at Gravelly Point? A backyard gathering with family and friends? Braving the crowds on the National Mall to watch the fireworks? Or maybe you are more of the stay-at-home type. If so, we recommend watching the A Capitol Fourth concert on WETA Television. We hear it’s really good.

Well, 150 years ago, there weren’t so many options but Washingtonians still put on quite a celebration for the nation’s birthday.