• Dr. S. M. Johnson stands next to the Zero Milestone marker. (Photo source: Library of Congress)
    The Zero Milestone
     
     
    In the 1920s, proponents of the Good Roads Movement tried to make D.C. the center of the Western Hemisphere, at least as far as highways were concerned.
  • Activists at drug store counter in Arlington. (Source: Washington Area Spark on Flickr.)
    Civil Rights Movement
     
     
    In June 1960, students from the Non-Violent Action Group staged successful sit-ins at several Arlington lunch counters.
  • Muhammad Ali - 1967 World Journal Tribune photo by Ira Rosenberg. (Source: Library of Congress)
    Muhammad Ali
     
     
    In April 1967, days before Muhammad Ali refused military induction, he came to Howard University and gave one of his most famous speeches.
  • Unveiling of Confederate Memorial at Arlington, 1914
    It Happened Here
     
     
    On June 4, 1914, a crowd gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to dedicate a unique monument of healing.
  • National Hotel c. 1909 (Source: Library of Congress)
    It Happened Here
     
     
    What’s better for a president-elect waiting to move into the White House than to stay in one of the swankiest hotels in the nation's capital? In 1857, a lot.

The Langley Aerodrome

Nowaways nearly everyone knows that Orville and Wilbur Wright were the “First in Flight,” but that wasn’t always the case. A local scientist almost knocked them out of the history books... twice. In 1903 a team under the direction of Smithsonian Institute Secretary Samuel Langley attempted a manned flight of a motor-powered airplane from a houseboat in the Potomac River. If successful, it would be the world’s first flying machine.

The flight was a spectacular failure, but for 30 years the Smithsonian recognized Langley's Aerodrome -- and not the Wright Brothers' flyer -- as the world's first manned aircraft capable of flight. Needless to say, Orville and Wilbur were not pleased.

Joe Namath talks with Jets coach Weeb Ewbank during Namath's professional debut in Alexandria, Virginia, August 7, 1965. (Source: Alexandria Gazette)

Before He Was Broadway Joe

So where do you think Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath made his professional football debut? Shea Stadium in New York? Wrong. Fenway Park in Boston? Wrong again. D.C. Stadium in Washington? Nice try, but no.

The correct answer is George Washington High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Say what? Yes, it’s true.

On August 7, 1965 Namath and the New York Jets played the Houston Oilers at GWHS in the first preseason game of the 1965 AFL season. The game was a charity benefit sponsored by Kena Temple, the local Shriners organization, and was wrapped into the city’s annual “Alexandria Days” summer festival.

Happy Repeal Day, Maryland and Virginia! (Sorry, D.C.)

Washington Post headline

Repeal Day, December 5, 1933, was a day of wild celebration. The 18th Amendment was repealed, ending the great experiment known as Prohibition. Booze could finally start flowing again (legally) across the country and Americans were eager to imbibe. But, as kegs were tapped and bottles were uncorked from coast to coast, one place was left out of the party: Washington, D.C.

Fairlington Villages (Souce: Library of Congress)

Fairlington: Built to Last

The year is 1943. You’re new to the area and looking for a place to live that’s close enough to the city that the commute to your government job won’t be completely terrible. Maybe you’ve got a dog. Maybe you’re starting a family. It’s a busy time. The war is going on, after all, and Washington is buzzing with activity. Where are you going to live?

Well, if you were looking in Arlington, there’s a good chance you might end up in the new Fairlington neighborhood…  That is of course, if you could get a spot -– easier said than done in those days.

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.

See the full size photo »

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.

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