• Howard Russell Butler painting of 1918 eclipse. (Source: Wikipedia)
    U.S. Naval Observatory
     
     
    On June 8, 1918 the U.S. Naval Observatory pulled out all the stops to document the first transcontinental total eclipse over U.S. skies in decades.
  • Music History
     
     
    As The Doors' popularity skyrocketed in 1967, the band's local tour stop might have stood out to front man Jim Morrison more than any other.
  • Ballston Common Mall
     
     
    Though perhaps hard to believe now, when it opened in 1951 Parkington Mall (later Ballston) was an exciting novelty of post-war suburbia.
  • Leonard Bernstein and cast at rehearsal for West Side Story. (Library of Congress)
    The Night 'West Side Story' Opened in Washington
     
     
    Before Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story became a Broadway smash, it premiered at the National Theater in Washington in August of 1957.
  • Bathers enjoy the Tidal Basin beach. (Photo source: Library of Congress)
    Strange But True
     
     
    In the 1920s, Washingtonians dealt with the summer heat by going to the nearest beach... at the Tidal Basin.

The Music Behind the Corcoran's Pump Me Up Exhibit

Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, Rare Essence, Minor Threat, SOA.

If you lived in DC in the 1980s, you probably recognize these as local Go-Go and hardcore bands. If that's the case, the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s newest exhibit, Pump Me Up, is sure to invoke nostalgia. For those who have come here more recently, the exhibit offers a rare opportunity to see how much DC has changed in the last thirty years. (You definitely get a different image of the 80s than at a Legwarmers concert at the State Theatre!) Either way, it's worth a visit.

To put it mildly, the 1980s was a tumultuous period for the District of Columbia. There was a lot going on and homegrown music was right at the center of the city's experience.

Stephen Decatur

Every Second Counts: The Decatur-Barron Duel of 1820

In the early 19th century, taking a life was as easy as taking offense. Just ask Commodore Stephen Decatur. On this day in 1820, he was killed in a duel leaving (as some claim) his spirit to wander and perhaps seek retribution from the parties that coldly arranged his death.

Decatur was born in 1779 and had a mostly praise-worthy navy career, earning “the heart of a nation” and the malice of a few whose careers he stepped over to achieve his own greatness. One of these was Commodore James Barron.

Things got ugly between the two men with the help of two others who apparently wanted a piece of Decatur, too.

The District's Claim to the Daiquiri

Though it may not really feel like it when you go outside lately, spring is almost here. It won't be long before people all over the DMV are sipping drinks by the pool. Pina coladas... mojitos... and, of course, everyone's favorite homegrown cocktail, the daiquiri.

Ummm...?

Okay, okay, the daiquiri is not truly a Washington creation -- it was first mixed in Cuba -- but it has a strong early connection to the District. So, we have some basis to claim it. Read on!

The Washington Post Gets Snarky in 1891

Around these parts it’s pretty common to have buildings named after politicians. The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Rayburn House Office Building, the Tip O’Neill Building, the Clinton E.P.A. Building – the list goes on and on.

Well, back in the 1890s, the Washington Post felt that Rep. Joseph G. Cannon (R – Illinois) deserved a different kind of recognition for his work on the National Zoo project.

Bomb Rocks U.S. Capitol

Washington Post cartoon March 1, 1971.

In the wee hours of the morning on March 1, 1971, a disturbing phone call came in to the Senate telephone switchboard. A man “with a hard low voice” told the operator that the U.S. Capitol would blow up in 30 minutes.

In the past, operators had fielded similar threatening calls from time to time, but all of them had turned out to be false alarms or pranks. This one, however, would be different.

Happy Birthday, National Zoo!

On this day in 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation establishing a zoological park along Rock Creek in Northwest Washington “for the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” But, of course, the backstory began years before.

Prior to the creation of the Zoo park, the Smithsonian kept a large collection of animals in pens and cages on the National Mall. Washingtonians flocked to see the motley collection which included a jaguar, grizzly bear, lynx and buffalo.

Buffalo grazing on the National Mall! Can you imagine?

Little Known Victims of the Lincoln Assassination

Currier and Ives, The Assassination of Lincoln at Ford's Theater, April 14, 1865. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

If you’re up on your Academy Awards news, then you know that people are loco for Lincoln. This historical drama is nominated for twelve out of seventeen applicable awards: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Writing - Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Music – Original Score, Production Design, and Sound Mixing. Basically, if you haven’t seen it yet, Hollywood really thinks you should.

But great movies can sometimes leave stuff out, and that’s where we step in. Here’s a story of some of the other folks affected by the conspirators of the Lincoln assassination plot.

The Seneca Stone Ring Scandal

We're happy to have a guest post from local historian and friend of the blog, Garrett Peck who is the author of  The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry, just released from The History Press.

Garrett's book tells the story of a (until recently!) largely-forgotten quarry in Seneca, Maryland, which provided the stone for the Smithsonian Castle and a host of other local landmarks. As he explains, the quarry also proved to be a source of scandal for President U.S. Grant in the 1870s.

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