Smithsonian

Filed Under:DC

Horatio Greenough’s Near Naked Washington

Horatio Greenough's classical George Washington did not get the reception the sculptor hoped when it was put on display in Washington in 1841. (Photo source: Wikipedia)The nation’s capital is chock full of statues, memorials, monuments, historic markers, and museums. As the seat of the United States government, Washington has a unique niche as both a repository of history and as a tourist spot. Some monuments are world-famous, some now reside in hidden corners, some are the centers of conspiracy theories (as Dan Brown and National Treasure fans will know), and some have been forgotten altogether. One statue in particular has been all of these things – and more – since it was first created: Horatio Greenough’s George Washington.

Filed Under:DC

Assassin's Cranium

We couldn't get a photo of Powell's actual skull so just imagine this one with reeeeeally bad teeth. Source: Smithsonian's Written in Bone exhibit) Lewis Powell, the would-be assassin of Secretary of State William H. Seward, was prone to goof-ups. You might even say he had the tendency to lose his head.

As you know from our previous post, Powell was one of the co-conspirators in the Lincoln assassination plot. After his bloody rampage in the Seward home, Powell was tried and hanged along with three other conspirators on July 7, 1865. That should have been the end of the story, but it took over one hundred years for Powell's tale to come to an end.

Filed Under:DC

Happy Birthday, National Zoo!

Bison relaxing in their pen in front of the Smithsonian Castle in the 1880s. (Photo source: Smithsonian Archives) 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?

Filed Under:DC

Impressions of Washington: A German Visitor to the Smithsonian in 1874

The Smithsonian Institution Castle as it appeared c.1870. (Photo source: Brady-Handy Photograph Collection at Library of Congress.)It's always interesting to read what visitors and residents of Washington have had to say about our fair city over the years.

In 1873, the Kölnische Zeitung (Cologne Daily News) asked German anthropologist Friedrich Ratzel to take a trip to the United States and write a series of articles about life in America. He reached Washington in the winter of 1874 and, as a scientist, was particularly interested in the Smithsonian building. See what he had to say.

Filed Under:DC, Virginia

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.

Filed Under:Virginia

November is an Appropriate Time to Remember Ambrose E. Burnside

General Ambrose E. Burnside, the father of the sideburn. (Source: Wikipedia)Just as this week’s cold snap sent many people searching for their winter coats, it also reminded some shivering citizens of a particular month-long “celebration” that keeps their cheeks warm, too: “No-Shave November.”

As a person who appreciates history and a good facial hair crop, I couldn’t help but think of certain furry Civil War general who rose to prominence 150 years ago this week.

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