1920s

Filed Under:DC

Thomas Edison's D.C. Invention

Thomas Edison (Photo source: Wikipedia)Tonight our favorite documentary series, American Experience premieres a film about Thomas Edison, which you can watch on WETA TV26 and WETA HD at 9pm. Of course Edison is most known for his many inventions at his New Jersey lab. But, he also has a very unique connection to Washington.

The year was 1915. World War I was raging in Europe and Americans were uneasy at the prospect that their country would soon be brought into the conflict. As a man with a history of creative ideas, it's no surprise Edison had some thoughts on the situation and he was not shy about sharing them:

"The Government should maintain a great research laboratory, jointly under military and naval and civilian control. In this could be developed the continually increasing possibilities of great guns, the minutiae of new explosives, all the technique of military and naval progression, without any vast expense. When the time came, if it ever did, we could take advantage of the knowledge gained through this research work and quickly manufacture in large quantities the very latest and most efficient instruments of warfare."

It took a few years, but he finally got his wish and it left a lasting impact here in Washington.

Filed Under:DC, Virginia

The Klan Leaves Its Mark on Washington's Airwaves

Membership in the Ku Klux Klan spiked in the 1920s as evidenced by the thousands of marchers at the KKK's 1925 rally in Washington. (Photo source: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)It was the roaring '20s and radio was taking off. Americans were tuning-in in droves for news, opera, popular music and sports. No other medium offered the ability to reach so many people instantaneously. Advertisers took note.

So, too, did the resurgent Ku Klux Klan, which was interested in its own sort of advertising: promoting a unique brand of “patriotism” founded upon white privilege and intolerance for blacks, Catholics, Jews and immigrants amongst others. The Klan's foray into broadcasting is still felt in Washington to this day.

Filed Under:DC

Watch Lost Footage of Washington Senators' 1924 World Series Championship

Washington Senators player-manager Bucky Harris presents a ball to Presisdent Calvin Coolidge at the 1924 World Series. (Photo source: Library of Congress.) With the decades of lackluster baseball teams in the nation's capital, the 34 years when D.C. didn't have a team at all, and the early struggles of the current Nationals franchise, it's probably hard for most fans to imagine what a baseball championship in the nation's capital looked like.

Well, thanks to the Library of Congress, it just got a whole lot easier.

Filed Under:DC

How Hoover--No, Not That Hoover!--Got Al Capone

The nation's 31st President, as it turns out, was the man who proved to be Al Capone's worst enemy. Credit: Library of CongressYears after the 1931 federal conviction for tax evasion that put Al "Scarface" Capone in prison and ended his career as Chicago's most feared mobster, he was known to complain bitterly about the man whose vendetta, in Capone's view, had put him behind bars. "That bastard Hoover," Capone would rant. But he suprisingly, he wasn't talking about FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who, despite his heavily-hyped reputation as a gangster nemesis, had little to do with Capone's demise. 

Instead, Capone saw his true mortal enemy as President Herbert Hoover. And unlike most of the people who harbor grudges against Presidents, Capone actually was right. 

Filed Under:DC

DC Was a Busy Place for Women in April 1922

Lady Nancy Astor was as native Virginian who was the first woman to hold a seat in the British Parliament. (Photo source: Wikipedia)April 1922 was a busy time for Washington socialites and the newspapers that followed them, as the city hosted no less than five national and international women’s groups in the span of a few short weeks.

DC had long been a party town (pun intended) but these gatherings provide a glimpse of the changing dynamics of womens’ political involvement during the 1920s, immediately following the passage of the nineteenth amendment. Let’s take a look at some highlights.

Filed Under:DC

Save the Suitcases! The Willard Hotel Fire of 1922

The recently renovated ballroom of the Willard Hotel was destroyed by fire on April 23, 1922. (Photo source: Library of CongressThere have certainly been worse fires, but the Willard Hotel blaze of 1922 caused quite a stir. It resulted in $400,000 (close to $5,400,000 in today's money!) in damages to the grand hotel and sent some of the District's most distinguished citizens and guests out into the street in their pajamas. Some just moved a little more quickly than others. Apparently emergency procedures were a little different back then.

Filed Under:DC

All Roads Lead to Washington: The Zero Milestone

Dr. S. M. Johnson, advocate of the Good Roads Movement, stands next to the Zero Milestone marker. L'Enfant didn't get to be in the picture. (Photo source: Library of Congress)

No doubt you are familiar with D.C.’s most prominent tributes to history -- the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, possibly even that unique sculpture of Einstein lounging on Constitution Avenue. But have you ever heard of the Zero Milestone? Standing next to the White House, this small monument is easily missed, but it holds a tremendous amount of history, all contained in a 2x4 hunk of granite…well, actually it extends out a little farther than just that spot.

Filed Under:DC

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 »

Filed Under:DC, Maryland, Virginia

The Black Cone of Death

A tornado like this one ripped through the D.C. area on November 17, 1927. (Source: Library of Congress)On November 17, 1927 one of the fiercest storms our area has ever seen touched down near Old Town Alexandria. With winds estimated at 125 mph, it ripped through Alexandria, D.C. and Prince Georges County within minutes, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Filed Under:Virginia

The Less-Known Unknown

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War. (Photo by James A. DeYoung/Alexandria City website) Yesterday, we posted a story about the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery in 1921. Most readers are probably familiar with that memorial (and, if they read our post, they now know a little about its history). It is, after all, one of the most sacred places in the country.

But, what you may not know is that there is another Tomb of the Unknown just down the road in Alexandria, Virginia. In the burial yard of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House at 323 South Fairfax Street lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. It is just seven miles away from its more famous counterpart, but light-years apart in the amount of attention it receives.

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