• 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.
Cissy Patterson (Source: Library of Congress)

Cissy Patterson: The First Lady of the D.C. Press

Born into wealth and privilege, no one can say Cissy Patterson started at the bottom, but she definitely ended up at the top of Washington's social scene in the 1930s. As the owner of the most popular newspaper in the city, Patterson defined who was who in D.C., sensationalizing political feuds in print and throwing elaborate parties at her Dupont Circle mansion. But despite being the brightest star in the sky, she was anything but universally beloved. Just ask her daughter, Felicia.

Etiquette of Social Life in Washington book cover

High Society Impacts of the Presidential Succession Act

Before 1886, presidential succession called for a special election if the President, the Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House all died. This left a lot of Washington hostesses high and dry. In the District, where official life totally overlaps with social life, knowing whether the Chief Justice took precedence over the Secretary of State is just as important to the President’s wife as it would be to the President. So, before the 1886 Act established a detailed list of who’s the who-est in Washington, how did the ladies do it? Usually with complicated treatises on political theory.

Muhammad Ali's Two Fights at Capital Centre

 Mohammad Ali, right, throws a punch at Alfredo Evangelista, left, during an WBC/WBA heavyweight championship fight on May 16, 1977 at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. Ali won the fight with a unanimous decision. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Muhammad Ali, who died on June 3, 2016 at age 74, twice defended his heavyweight boxing title at the old Capital Centre arena in Landover, Maryland. You're not likely to see either his April 30,1976 fight against Jimmy Young nor his May 15, 1977 bout with Alfredo Evangelista, both of which he won by unaminous decision, on highlight reels of Ali's greatest fights. Nevertheless, they gave Washingtonians a chance to catch an up-close look at "The Greatest," a larger-than-life athlete whose unconventional style and sublime physical grace was matched by his irrepressible talent for hyperbole and outrageous self-promotion.

1973: The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Mega-Concert

Back in the summer of 1973, long before bumper stickers iconic skeleton-and-roses logo were a familiar sight on camper vans, the Grateful Dead teamed up with another legendary rock band, the Allman Brothers, to play a pair of concerts at RFK Stadium that were the first multi-day rock extravaganza in the District's history. The shows drew 80,000 people to witness a rare pairing of southern blues-rock and San Francisco psychedelia. As Rolling Stone reviewer Gordon Fletcher noted: "Every rock & roller on the East Coast worth his or her faded jeans...showed up." It was a show that paved the way for scores of other big stadium concerts and events such as the HFStivals of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Evening Star article from March 25, 1882.

The Disappearing Corpse of D.C.'s First Murderer

Washington was unprepared for its first murder trial in 1802. The trial took place in the Capitol building, for want of a court room, and the murderer was held in a temporary jail in an alley dwelling on 4 ½ street. All around it turned out to be a difficult event for the city, but let’s start at the beginning.

Patrick McGurk was an Irish immigrant who lived on F Street, between 12th NW and 13th NW. He worked as a bricklayer and had a serious drinking problem. As too often is the case, his wife suffered from his bad habit. In the summer of 1802, McGurk beat his wife so badly that she and their unborn twins died. After being convicted at trial, D.C.’s first murderer was sentenced to hanging.

That's when things started to get weird.

Owls, named "Increase" and "Diffusion", who lived in the West Tower of the Smithsonian Institution Building, perch on a ledge. (Source: Smithsonian)

When Owls Guarded the Smithsonian

In the 1960s and '70s, renovations in the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle sought to restore the building to its Victorian beginnings. Secretary of the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley, didn’t think architecture was quite enough to restore the #aesthetic. No, what the castle really needed was a few live-in barn owls, just like the old days.

Before the Bonus Marchers There was Coxey’s Army

Jacob Coxey (Source: Library of Congress via Encycolopeia Britannica Kids)

Many are familiar with the story of the Bonus Marchers of 1932, the large group of World War I veterans who gathered from around the country in Washington, D.C., demanding their long promised benefits. For many veterans, the bonus money for military service was the difference between keeping a roof over their families’ heads or keeping the bank from repossessing their property. But this was not the first time disgruntled citizens descended on Washington seeking economic redress.

In the midst of an economic crisis that shook the nation in the mid 1890s, Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey, and his eccentric colleague Carl Browne organized a collection of unemployed men and women to march to Washington to present their plan. They left Massillon, Ohio on March 25, arriving in Washington, D.C. at the end of April. Along the way, they were joined by dozens of similarly affected men and women eager to find a solution to their economic plight.

The welcome they received was far from warm.

Marcia Van Ness (Source: the-athenaeum.org)

The First Leading Lady of Washington: Marcia Van Ness

In the historic society of Washington there has always been a woman at the top. Sometimes she rules with an iron fist, sometimes it’s with charm, but she does rule. And the very first of these ladies was Marcia Van Ness. This future “heiress of Washington” got her start as Marcia Burnes, the daughter of David Burnes, a stubborn Scottish farmer. In 17900, the new location for the capital was chosen, George Washington got to know Mr. Burnes very well. Possibly too well, in the president’s opinion.

Film poster for Being There (Source: Filmsite.org)

Oscar Winning Films of Washington, D.C.: Being There

The 1979 film “Being There,” directed by Hal Ashby from the acclaimed novel by Jerzy Kosinski, was a light-hearted comic observation of politics and celebrity in America. Set in and around Washington, D.C., this Oscar gem is a time capsule of some Capital locales that might not be readily recognizable 27 years after they were filmed.

Henry Shrady: The Man Who Gave His Life for U.S. Grant’s Memorial

U.S. Grant Memorial Equestrian Statue

When sculptor Henry Merwin Shrady, along with architect Edward Pearce Casey, won the commission to design the Capitol's Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in 1902, neither man was quite aware of the scope of the project with which they were getting involved. The monument had first been proposed in 1895 by the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, which wanted a grand way to honor the general who led the Union Army to victory during the Civil War. Shrady threw himself into the project that would consume his life -- literally -- over the next 20 years.

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