DC

The Engrossed Declaration of Independence, circa. 1776 (source: Library of Congress)

Lost from History: Josias Wilson King

Josias Wilson King is a name that would probably not ring any bells. In fact, even when Google-searched, it takes a great amount of effort to find much if anything about him. In life, however, he interacted with some of the most prominent men in American history – Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – was involved in the first scandal in the Library of Congress’ history, and helped to save America’s keystone documents.

Fat man cartoon from The Washington Times, February 4, 1914

Fat Men's Clubs of D.C.

In the 19th century, being overweight was still a sign of wealth and prestige. So, it's probably not surprising that fat men’s clubs started popping up across America. There were Fat Men’s Clubs from New York to California; they eventually reached “every state in the Union” as well as the nation's capital.

The D.C. fat men’s club scene was wildly popular and members would intentionally pack on the pounds at the time of membership renewal in order to remain eligible. They were proud of their weights, even boasting about how much they had gained each week. And, sometimes, it was serious business, like 1894 when a brawl broke out between two of D.C.'s biggest clubs.

Advertisement poster for the American Red Cross circa. 1914-1918 (Source: Library of Congress)

Honeymoon on the Western Front

On January 30, 1915, a select few of Washington’s high society came out for the wedding of Edward Motely Pickman and Hester Marion Chanler. The two married in an intimate ceremony at the Meridan Hill home of Mr. Henry White, a former Ambassador to France, and his wife Margaret “Daisy” Stuyvesant Rutherford, a prominent New York socialite. (The Whites were distant relatives but close friends of Hester’s family.) The day before, Washington’s movers and shakers celebrated the young couple at the exclusive Alibi club where membership rolls included presidents, senators, chief justices, and ambassadors.

News of the wedding took the front page of the Washington Post’s Society section. However, it was not the guest list or the bride’s dress that made the Pickmans the talk of the town. Rather, it was their unusual honeymoon plans.

Thawing the Cold War with Theatre

The cast of Inherit the Wind and the audience giving each other a standing ovation in Moscow (Source: Arena Stage)

In the middle of the Cold War the United States and the U.S.S.R. managed to find one thing they could agree on: culture. In 1958, the two countries reached an agreement which allowed each to send students, scientists and performers to the other country to exchange new ideas and technologies. The initial agreement, made during the space race and just a few years before the Cuban Missile Crisis, would eventually facilitate an exchange of 1,700 individuals. Arena Stage became a part of that exchange in 1973 when they traveled to Moscow and Leningrad.

Harriet Lane (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Other First Ladies

As President Trump's wife, Melania, has elected to stay in New York -- at least for the time being -- it has been widely speculated that the President's daughter, Ivanka, will take on some of the traditional duties of the First Lady in Washington. Many are worried that this is another break from tradition by America’s unconventional 45th president; however, there have been numerous other times in US history when the ‘First Lady’ has been a woman other than the president’s wife. Sometimes, it’s because the president is a bachelor or a widower; other times, the First Lady is too ill to fulfill her duties as hostess and appoints a substitute. Or, as often seemed the case in the 19th century and perhaps now, the president’s wife took one look at the job and said “No, thank you!”

Patent Office in 1855 after it was rebuilt. (Source:  Cliff - Flickr: The Patent Office, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17697085)

The Patent Office Fire of 1836

American commerce and invention suffered a terrible blow on December 15, 1836, when the U.S. Patent Office caught fire. The office, which was located in Blodget’s Hotel on E Street NW between 7th and 8th Streets, shared its space with the U.S. Post Office and a branch of the local fire department, of all things. Unfortunately, that volunteer fire department had disbanded and the only way to fight the flames was a bucket brigade. When the fire was finally doused, America lost an estimated 7,000 models and 9,000 drawings of pending and patented inventions.

Andrew Jackson

The Election of 1828: It's Always Been Ugly

As the presidential election of 1828 approached, the nation’s emotions were running high. Andrew Jackson, the former Governor of Tennessee, was to challenge incumbent president John Quincy Adams. This was a partial rematch of the controversial four-way contest of 1824. Jackson won the most popular and electoral votes, but because no candidate won a majority, the election went to the House of Representatives, who chose second-place finisher John Quincy Adams. Jackson and his supporters were furious. Calling it the “Corrupt Bargain,” Jackson’s supporters accused fourth-place candidate Henry Clay of selling his supporters to Adams for the job of Secretary of State. This set the stage for the most vicious campaign ever seen at that point in American history.

Thomas Jefferson

The Merry Affair

When Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801, he decided he was going to do away with all the courtly nonsense of his predecessors, George Washington and John Adams. No longer would there be rules and regulations dictating behavior in social situations; not a single whiff of pomp or circumstance would be found in his administration. It was a rude awakening for visiting dignitaries including British minister Anthony Merry.

The Great Folklife Festival Bull Chase of 1976

Two cowboys pictured on the right roping a bull calf that is resisting capture on the left.

On August 4, 1976 cowboys from the American Southwest section of the Smithsonian’s annual Festival of American Folklife were in the middle of demonstrating a calf roping technique when a 400-pound bull calf "made him a hole" in the corral fence and took-off from the Festival site into lunch-hour traffic.

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