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Woody Guthrie, 1943 (Library of Congress)

How Washington Saved Folk Music

Sure, it seems a bit counter-intuitive. How could the favorite subject of protest music also be its greatest protector? Well, believe it. If it wasn't for Alan Lomax and the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress there might not be a Woody Guthrie — and thus by extension — a Bob Dylan or a Bruce Springsteen, and well … you get the rest. In March 1940, Lomax arranged for Guthrie to travel to Washington, D.C. to record traditional ballads and his original songs at the Department of the Interior recording lab. What emerged from three days of sessions is one of the purest documents of Americana ever released.

Mail Your Christmas Cards Early

The holiday season is pretty busy for the United States Post Office -- lots of letters and packages going all over the country, from coast to coast. And we're all familiar with the warnings that tell us to mail our items early if we want to guarantee delivery by Christmas. Well, apparently D.C. residents weren't heeding the warnings back in 1921. So the U.S.P.S. called in the big fella to get the point across.

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The photo for the Grammy award-winning album cover of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits was taken at the Washington Coliseum on November 28, 1965. (Source: Wikipedia)

Bob Dylan's Greatest Pic

Washington doesn't usually get mentioned in the pantheon of great American music cities but we've had our moments. One of them was Sunday, November 28, 1965, when Bob Dylan played the Washington Coliseum.

Curiously, details about the concert itself are scarce — the Washington Post didn't bother to write a review (kind of surprising since Dylan was very well known by 1965), and Dylan's own website doesn't have a setlist from the show. But the singer's visit to Washington was significant for one now-famous image the concert produced.

Portrait of Yarrow Mamout by Chales Wilson Peale, 1819.

Yarrow Mamout's Place in History

Yarrow Mamout was the most prominent African American in early Washington.  He was a Muslim, educated in West Africa to read and write in Arabic.  He and a sister arrived in America from on a slave ship in 1752. After forty-five years as a slave of the Beall family of Maryland, Yarrow (his last name) gained his freedom and settled in Georgetown. In 1800, he acquired the property at what is now 3324 Dent Place and lived there the rest of his life.

The house on Yarrow Mamout’s old lot in Georgetown is scheduled for demolition, but efforts are underway to save any artifacts from his occupancy as well as his mortal remains from the bulldozer.

In one of D.C.'s more creative publicity stunts, this oversized chair in Anacostia served as a home for model Lynn Arnold in 1960. (Source: Flickr user stgermh. Used via Creative Commons license.)

The Big Chair in Anacostia

Creative advertising wasn’t just for Don Draper and the New York Mad Men.

In 1959, Anacostia’s Curtis Bros. Furniture Company commissioned Bassett Furniture to construct a 19.5 foot tall Duncan Phyfe dining room chair to put on display outside their showroom at V St. and Nichols Ave. SE (now Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd. SE).

In one of the more creative publicity stunts D.C. has ever seen, the company then convinced local model Lynn Arnold to live in a glass apartment atop the chair for seven weeks. Crowds flocked to the store in droves to check out the scene.

George Preston Marshall (Source: Library of Congress)

A D.C. Dome?

Tomorrow afternoon, the Redskins will play the Cowboys at colossal Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. With a seating capacity of up to 100,000, a retractable roof, and a 60 yard-long HD video board amongst other amenities, the stadium is something to behold.

But, when it comes to innovative stadium designs, the Cowboys have nothing on former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall.

Hugh Bennett and the Perfect Storm

Think the impacts of the Dust Bowl were only felt in the Great Plains? Think again. In the spring of 1935, a dust storm nearly blocked out the sun above Washington, alarming local citizens and spurring Congress to take action on soil erosion policy.

Buttons like this could be seen around D.C. in 1964 as District residents voted in their first Presidential election. (Source: ebay)

D.C.'s Electoral Vote

It’s Election Day, and hopefully most of you are braving the cold and the lines at your local polling place to make sure your voice is heard. If you cast your ballot for a presidential candidate in the District, you exercised a right that has only been around for 52 years; that’s how long DC residents have had the right to vote in presidential elections, a right granted by the 23rd Amendment.

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