Filed Under:DC, Maryland

DC's TB Problem

Glenn Dale Hospital and Sanatorium (Photo source: Wikipedia)Now abandoned, Glenn Dale Hospital and Sanatorium was Washington's response to its Tuberculosis problem in the 1930s. (Photo source: Wikipedia) Tonight at 9pm, WETA TV 26 and WETA HD premiere the new American Experience film The Forgotten Plague, which details the impact of Tuberculosis on American society. TB was a problem everywhere. But, the disease hit few places as hard as it hit Washington, D.C. In fact, according to a 1934 report by the District Medical Society, only Memphis, San Antonio and New Orleans had higher death rates among large cities in the United States.

The stats were alarming. They were also somewhat surprising, at least according to some. As the DMS report noted, since D.C. “is less congested and the economic situation is better than in any other city in this country, we should have one of the lowest death rates.” However, the rate in the nation’s capital was “higher even than that of Baltimore, where congestion and the economic situation are notoriously unfavorable.” (Sorry, Baltimore, apparently you were the measuring stick for terrible public health in the 1930s.)

Filed Under:DC

Washingtonians React to the "War of the Worlds"

Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama "War of the Worlds" touched off panic and alarm in cities across the country, including Washington. (Photo source: Library of Congress)Tonight on WETA TV 26 and WETA HD, American Experience celebrates the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles' famous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast with a new documentary. Back in 1938, Welles caused mass panic as many listeners to his The Mercury Theater Over the Air drama program on CBS radio thought that he was reporting on a real alien invasion.

Locally, Washingtonians heard the show on WJSV, the precursor to today's WTOP and the broadcast got quite a reaction. Phone switchboards were overwhelmed as frightened listeners called their loved ones and contacted the radio station for the latest news. Even some law enforcement personnel were duped. Afterwards, area residents blamed a variety of factors for the hysteria.

Filed Under:DC, Virginia

The Changing Landscape of Arlington As Seen by An Old DC Hiking Club

Robert Shosteck (third from the left) and the adventurous hikers on the Wanderbirds' first excursion on April 1, 1934. (Photo source: Wanderbirds Hiking Club)

It’s a casual Sunday in April 1934 and you’re looking for something to do. How about a hike in the great outdoors? Lucky for you, there’s a new hiking club in town and they are preparing for their very first hike!

Earlier that year, German immigrant and nature enthusiast Robert Shosteck approached The Washington Post to inquire if the paper was interested in creating a partnership. Shosteck offered to write multiple columns each week on various outdoor topics in exchange for The Post’s sponsorship of a new hiking club, which he called The Wanderbirds.[1]

Filed Under:DC

Impressions of Washington: Lead Belly's "Bourgeois Blues"

Lead Belly, National Press Club, Washington, D.C., between 1938 and 1948Huddie William Ledbetter (January 20, 1888 – December 6, 1949), better known as Lead Belly, was a legendary folk and blues musician known for his virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, powerful vocals and the huge catalog of folk standards he introduced. Inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, artists from Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin to Nirvana and the White Stripes have covered his songs and recognized his musical influence.

Somewhat less remembered, even locally, is Lead Belly's "Bourgeois Blues," a song written about his first visit to Washington, D.C. in 1937 — an incisive indictment of the city’s racial segregation conveyed in 3 minutes of rippling 12-string blues.

Filed Under:Maryland

Elkton, Maryland: The Quickie Wedding Capital of the East Coast

Postcard showing wedding chapel in Elkton, Maryland. (Source: Ad Astra blog by Charles Leck)If Cupid strikes you in the heart today, you might decide to take a trip to a Las Vegas wedding chapel or your local courthouse for a quick wedding. If you wanted to get married in a hurry in the 1930s, however, there was only one place to go: Elkton, Maryland just inside the Delaware border.

Filed Under:Maryland

Visit F. Scott Fitzgerald in Rockville -- And Don’t Forget a Bottle of Gin

F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937. (Source: Library of Congress.)So we beat on, boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

And with those beautiful words, one of the greatest American novels comes to a close. Most of you probably read The Great Gatsby at some point in school, but did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald has a local connection?

Indeed he did -- and a somewhat controversial one at that!

Filed Under:DC

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

The Washington Post reports the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933.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.

Filed Under:DC

A D.C. Dome?

Redskins owner George Preston Marshall in the 1930s. (Source: Library of Congress)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.

Filed Under:DC

Hugh Bennett and the Perfect Storm

A dust storm from the midwest blew into Washington in 1935, darkening the skies over the Lincoln Memorial. (Source: USDA website) Think the impacts of the Dust Bowl were only felt in the Great Plains? Think again. In the spring of 1935, a dust storm nearly blocked out the sun above Washington, alarming local citizens and spurring Congress to take action on soil erosion policy.

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