• New York Giants outfielder Willie Mays poses at the Polo Grounds in New York City on June 9, 1951. (AP Photo)
    Baseball in Hagerstown
     
     
    Few people skip their senior prom to play baseball in Hagerstown, Maryland, but few people in history have also hit 660 home runs and played in 24 All-Star games.
  • German spies (Photo source: FBI)
    How a Failed German Spy Mission Turned into J. Edgar Hoover’s Big Break
     
     
    In the midst of WWII, eight German spies landed secretly on American shores... and promptly delivered themselves to FBI agents in Washington.
  • Photo of the 100 block of North Fairfax Street, 1961-1965. (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.)
    Haunted Alexandria
     
     
    What really happened to the woman who supposedly burned to death on the night before her wedding day? What about her groom? And what if she never left Old Town?
  • The real life "Smokey the Bear," shown here frolicking in a pool at the National Zoo c.1950, was the embodiment of a fire safety public awareness campaign that started during World War II. (Photo credit: Francine Schroeder, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Used for educational purposes in accordance with the Smithsonian Archives terms of use.)
    Strange But True
     
     
    How did Smokey the Bear come to have his very own personal Washington, D.C. zipcode? Glad you asked.
  • Exterior view of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (Credit: Difference Engine on Wikipedia, licensed via Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.)
    Art History
     
     
    When I.M. Pei set out to design a modern addition to the National Gallery of Art, he knew it would be a difficult task.

L'Enfant's Funeral: An Honor 84 Years Overdue

On April 28, 1909, a funeral procession nearly a mile long paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street, complete with fine carriages and a military escort. Throughout Washington, D.C., flags were displayed at half mast, spectators lined the streets, and school children were allowed a break from their studies to glimpse out the window and see it pass by. The man they were there to honor was Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant… who died in 1825.

Fired for Being Gay, Frank Kameny Spent the Rest of His Life Fighting Back

Frank Kameny protests outside Independence Hall in 1965

You might be familiar with the Red Scare, Senator Joseph McCarthy's efforts to remove suspected communists from the U.S. State Department. But what about the Lavender Scare? Starting in the 1940s, government officials began firing thousands of employees based on their sexual orientation. Frank Kameny, a Harvard-educated astronomer was one of them. He lost his job in 1957 and challenged the dismisssal all the way to the Supreme Court. 

Official presidential portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1903. Roosevelt stands proudly upon the landing of a staircase.

A Tale of Two Painters: Theodore Roosevelt's Portraits

Edith Roosevelt's official portrait as First Lady was created by the renowned French artist Théobald Chartran in 1902. Throughout France and the United States, critics praised Chartran's work, applauding his ability to showcase Mrs. Roosevelt's distinctive character and beauty.

Unsurprisingly, then, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted a portrait of himself that was equally as flattering. But, in truth, he was not the most pleasant subject to paint—as could be confirmed by two separate portraitists.

The Deal Done in the Dark

"Signing of the Alaska Treaty," a famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, depicts Seward and Stoeckl negotiating the Alaska purchase in the State Department on March 30, 1867.

In 1866, State Department employees were forced out of their old offices in the Northeast Executive Building because an extension to the Treasury Department was being constructed on that site. As a result, they moved into the Washington City Orphan Asylum, a small and unassuming brick building on the corner of 14th and S streets NW. Though the move was less than ideal, the walls of the new State Department would soon see major historical and diplomatic events unfold. One sleepless night in particular occurred on March 30, 1867: when Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska purchase.

Forrest "Lefty" Brewer, pictured here in military uniform, was a minor league baseball player and paratrooper involved in D-Day during World War II. (Photo Credit: Gary Bedingfield, "Baseball in Wartime")

Lefty Brewer's Sacrifice

Scout Joe Cambria of the Washington Senators was in Florida in the summer of 1938, seeking out new recruits for D.C.’s major league baseball team. When he watched Forrest “Lefty” Brewer pitch for the St. Augustine Saints that summer, the scout had no doubt that this was a player who could help turn around the struggling D.C. club. On June 6, 1938, Brewer threw a no hitter in the minor leagues. Exactly six years later he jumped out of a plane over Normandy, France on D-Day.

How I.M. Pei Brought Modern Architecture to the National Mall

Exterior view of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (Credit: Difference Engine on Wikipedia, licensed via Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license)

When I.M. Pei, the celebrated Chinese-American architect from New York, was selected to design a new addition for D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, the Washington Post’s architecture critic remarked it was “no doubt one of the toughest [assignments] since Michelangelo was asked to put a dome on St. Peter’s.” Pei knew it would be a difficult task to build the new gallery, but that did not deter him. This is the story of how one of Washington's most unique buildings came to be.   

How Les Misérables Became Lee's Miserables

Cover page from West & Johnston translation of Les Miserables, which was distributed to Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. (Source: Hathi Trust)

When Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables was published in the spring of 1862, it took the world by storm. Within weeks, American audiences began devouring a five-volume translation by renowned classicist Charles E. Wilbour. As the Civil War raged, soldiers on both sides of the lines gobbled up copies and carried them into battle. But here's the thing: Confederate soldiers weren't actually reading the same book as their Northern adversaries, and that was by design.

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