Patrick Kiger

Patrick J. Kiger is a journalist, blogger and author based in the Washington, DC area. He has written for print publications ranging from GQ and Mother Jones to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and wrote the "Is This a Good Idea?" blog for the Science Channel from 2007-2012. His books include Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore that Shaped Modern America, co-authored with Martin J. Smith, which recently was reissued on in a Kindle edition. For more of his work, go to www.patrickjkiger.com or follow him on Twitter @patrickjkiger.

Posts by Patrick Kiger

Chuck Berry performing on the television program "The Midnight Special," November, 1973. (Source: via Wikimedia Commons)

When Chuck Berry Had the Boss As His Opening Act

Rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, who passed away at age 90 on March 18, 2017, performed in the Washington area numerous times during his career, including a July 1979 performance at the White House for President Jimmy Carter. But one of his most memorable local shows came a few years earlier, on April 28, 1973, when he played a show at the University of Maryland with fellow rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis, and an opening act who would go on to become one of the biggest superstars in rock — Bruce Springsteen. 

Muhammad Ali's Two Fights at Capital Centre

 Mohammad Ali, right, throws a punch at Alfredo Evangelista, left, during an WBC/WBA heavyweight championship fight on May 16, 1977 at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. Ali won the fight with a unanimous decision. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Muhammad Ali, who died on June 3, 2016 at age 74, twice defended his heavyweight boxing title at the old Capital Centre arena in Landover, Maryland. You're not likely to see either his April 30,1976 fight against Jimmy Young nor his May 15, 1977 bout with Alfredo Evangelista, both of which he won by unaminous decision, on highlight reels of Ali's greatest fights. Nevertheless, they gave Washingtonians a chance to catch an up-close look at "The Greatest," a larger-than-life athlete whose unconventional style and sublime physical grace was matched by his irrepressible talent for hyperbole and outrageous self-promotion.

1973: The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Mega-Concert

Back in the summer of 1973, long before bumper stickers iconic skeleton-and-roses logo were a familiar sight on camper vans, the Grateful Dead teamed up with another legendary rock band, the Allman Brothers, to play a pair of concerts at RFK Stadium that were the first multi-day rock extravaganza in the District's history. The shows drew 80,000 people to witness a rare pairing of southern blues-rock and San Francisco psychedelia. As Rolling Stone reviewer Gordon Fletcher noted: "Every rock & roller on the East Coast worth his or her faded jeans...showed up." It was a show that paved the way for scores of other big stadium concerts and events such as the HFStivals of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Fortress Alexandria

Fort Ward, Virginia, photo by AjaxSmack (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

After Union forces were routed in the first Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, they rushed back northward in a panic, realizing that Washington was vulnerable to a Confederate counterattack that — fortunately for the Union — the enemy chose not to mount.

A few days afterward, when Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan was appointed military governor of the capital, he made a sobering assessment of its poor defenses. As a result, the Union launched a crash campaign to protect Washington with a ring of outer defenses, which by the war's end would include 68 forts, 93 artillery batteries and 20 miles of rifle trenches, as well as picket stations, blockhouses and bridgeheads.

The Civil War Created a Refugee Crisis in Washington

Fugitive African Americans fording the Rappahannock River, July-August 1862. (Source: Library of Congress)

The Civil War changed Washington, D.C. tremendously, but one of the biggest impacts came from the thousands of former slaves who fled from the South and journeyed northward to seek refuge in the nation's capital. By early 1863, an estimated 10,000 of the refugees had arrived in the city, doubling the city's African-American population. The new residents were impoverished and in desperate need of basic wants, and often had no idea how to survive in a city.

Pages