1870s

Filed Under:DC, Virginia

The Wawaset Disaster of 1873

Wawaset Horror Headline from Washington Evening Star Newspaper, August 9, 1873. (Source: Library of Congress)Few remember it today, but in 1873 “the Waswaset horror” broke the hearts of many in D.C. and the surrounding area.

On August 8, 1873, the Wawaset was heading towards Cone River from Washington. Around 11:30AM, near Chatterson’s Landing, the fireman of the steamer raised the alarm that a fire had broken out on board. The boat was very dry, “almost like timber”, and it spread quickly on the oiled machinery of the steamer. Captain Woods immediately steered the boat towards shore. He stayed in the pilot’s house in order to keep the steering ropes from catching on fire; if those were lost, there would be no way to direct the steamer. If the steamer could make it to shore before the fire became too much for those on board, any loss of life could be avoided. Sadly, it didn’t happen that way.

Filed Under:DC

Happy Birthday to The Washington Post!

The front page of The Washington Post's first issue, published Thursday, December 6, 1877. (Photo source: Washingtonpost.com)December 6, 1877 was a big day in local journalism as D.C.'s longest running local rag, The Washington Post, published its first issue. For three pennies readers got four pages of news. Sounds like a pretty good deal.

Filed Under:DC

The Feather Duster Affair of 1874

When President Grant decided to abolish the District's territorial government in 1874 he probably had no idea that cleaning supplies would go missing.   (Photo source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)Understanding the history of local government in the District of Columbia is tricky business. The governance structure has changed several times since the city was founded in 1791 and, sometimes, these changes were quite dramatic... which brings us to the 1870s.

The territorial government prescribed by the Organic Act of 1871 gave D.C. a measure of home rule but the experiment would be short-lived. After Governor Alexander “Boss” Shepherd racked up big bills in an effort to modernize the city, President Grant felt compelled to make a change. What resulted was one of the more bizarre episodes in city history.

Filed Under:DC

A Wedding Announcement: Joseph Pulitzer and Kate Davis

Newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer married Kate Davis, a cousin of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, in Washington in 1878.Here’s a fun piece of trivia. America’s most famous newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, than man who is often credited for rise of modern journalism, was married here in Washington 135 years ago today, June 19, 1878.

His bride was Miss Kate Davis of Georgetown, a cousin of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. (I wonder if cousin Jefferson knew that Pulitzer had fought for the Union army during the Civil War. In fact, his immigration expenses from Hungary to the United States in 1864 were paid by Massachusetts military recruiters!)

Filed Under:DC

President Grant's Wintry Inaugural Disaster

The great inauguration ball for Ulysses S. Grant, March 4, 1873, in the temporary building in Judiciary Square, from a sketch by Jas. E. Taylor. (Photo: Library of Congress)It’s pretty cold right now, sure, and the city is in a flurry over the "snowquester," but none of that even comes close to the coldest March day on record, which was 140 years ago this week.

March 4th, 1873, was the day of Ulysses S. Grant’s second inauguration and it was, everyone agrees, a wintry disaster.

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