Virginia

Horse racing was a popular pasttime in Washington during the early 19th century. (Photo source: Library of Congress)

DC Hosts the Civil War of Horse Racing, 1822

In the 19th century, the North and South waged an important battle. No, not the Civil War- horse racing! Before the war between the states with military and espionage there was a stirring contest fought with the finest horses that either side could breed, and the first battle took place right in the heart of Washington D.C., at the National Course somewhere around 14th Street, north of Euclid Street and south of Columbia Heights.

All the ‘Hoos Down in ‘Hooville: The Persistent Myth of the Grinch in Charlottesville

High on Lewis Mountain, to the west of the picturesque college town of Charlottesville, sits a house that looks down on the famous University of Virginia. According to legend, Massachusetts resident Dr. Theodore Giesel  – better known to the majority of the world as Dr. Seuss – lived in the house after his application to the university was rejected.

Giesel was allegedly so upset over being snubbed by UVA that he purchased a house on the hill overlooking the school, because its elevated location allowed him to “look down” on the institution that rejected him. The setting is also allegedly the inspiration behind his famous children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Which does, after all, come with repeated references to all those ‘Hoos down in ‘Hooville – something that UVA students, nicknamed “Wahoos” – or ‘Hoos for short – in honor of a particular type of fish, have always embraced.

Hmmm... could it be true?

History Bloggers Rejoice! Getty Now Allows Free Embeds of Images

One of the big challenges to writing a history blog is finding good images. Well, things just got a lot easier with Getty's announcement that it is making up to 35 million images available for bloggers to embed in their sites for free. The company has created a new embed tool that allows images to be shared and includes proper photo credit information. See an example of the new tool at work after the jump.

Oscar-Winner "12 Years a Slave" is a Reminder of the Local Slave Trade

Director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, which won Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards telecast on Sunday, serves to highlight a horrific and shameful part of local history — the area's role as a transit depot and resale market for humans held in involuntary servitude.

For those who haven't yet seen it, the acclaimed film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American violinist who in 1841 traveled from his home in New York to Washington, DC, with the promise of a high-paying job as a circus musician. He didn't know that his prospective employers actually were slave traders. 

The Strange Arlington Saga of Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Tonight at 8pm WETA TV 26 and WETA HD premiere a new local documentary, Arlington National Cemetery. It's a poignant look at one of our nation's most hallowed grounds and offers a inside view of the cemetery's operations and history. But, since it's impossible to include everything in a one-hour documentary, we've been looking for other interesting Arlington stories to explore here on the blog.

So, along those lines, allow us to introduce you to one of Poland's greatest heroes, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who took a hiatus from his career as a world-renowned pianist and composer to serve as that nation's first Prime Minister. What does this have to do with Arlington? Find out after the jump.

Civil War Healing at Arlington National Cemetery

WETA Television's new documentary, Arlington National Cemetery (which premieres tomorrow night!) has inspired us to do some digging on cemetery history. Here's the background behind one of Arlington's most meaningful memorials.

On a warm, sunny day in June of 1914, a crowd gathered to witness the unveiling of what The Washington Post described as “a memorial of heroic size, commemorating war, but dedicated to peace.” It was an intricately designed, 32-foot tall granite monument deeply embedded with symbolic meaning for visitors to decode. A large statue of a woman facing southward dominated the top of the monument. In her extended arm was a laurel wreath meant to represent the sacrifices of fallen soldiers. Below her, a Biblical passage was inscribed, near four urns that symbolize the four years of the Civil War, and fourteen shields. Closer to the monument’s base are thirty-two life-sized figures, including Southerners of varying military branch, race, gender, occupation, and age, along with mythological characters such as Minerva, Goddess of War.[1]

So what was this new monument and why were so many people clamoring to see it?

Burial of the first official unknown soldier from World War I, on Nov. 11, 1921. Credit: U.S. Army

Arlington's First Official Unknown Soldier

At Arlington National Cemetery, the subject of a WETA television documentary, one of the most haunting features is the Tomb of the Unknowns, also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On the rear of the monument, there's a haunting inscription: Here rests in honored glory, an American soldier known but to God.

But the story of how the first official unknown soldier from World War I was selected for burial in the graves alongside the monument is a strange one. For one, he wasn't actually the first unidentified casualty to be entombed at Arlington.

The Wawaset Disaster of 1873

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.

10 Years Later: Remembering Elizabeth Campbell

January 9, 2004 was a very sad day for us here at WETA. It was the day that we lost Elizabeth Campbell, our founder and a pillar in the Washington, D.C. area community. Ten years later, we look back and celebrate her life and vision.

Thank you for everything you did to serve WETA and the Washington community, Mrs. Campbell. We still feel your impact today. May you continue to rest in peace.

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