DC

Apparently Predicting D.C. Weather Has Always Been a Fickle Business

Weren't we supposed to get snow today? At one point the word was that D.C. might get five or six inches... then it was down to an inch or two... then a dusting... now, nothing. It's a major disappointment for those of us who like the white fluffy stuff.

Well, it seems predicting the weather here has always been a little bit of a crapshoot. Check out this cartoon that ran on the front page of the Washington Evening Star newspaper exactly 100 years ago today, January 17, 1913.

A bunch of stocking-cap clad kids are ready to go sledding in Washington but, like today... NO SNOW, just clouds. I wonder if their grassroots "We Demand A New Weather Man" campaign had any impact?

Kudos to the folks at the D.C. Public Library's Washingtoniana division for pulling this gem out of the archives. If you haven't yet, go ahead and like them on Facebook. They are posting fun stuff like this all the time.

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

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.

Two Tragedies in One Day

It was snowing on the 14th Street Bridge and traffic had ground to a standstill as thousands of federal workers and other rush-hour commuters tried to get home ahead of a major storm. With an awful metallic crack, a blue-and-white jet swept out of the swirling snow at 4 p.m., smacked against one of the bridge's spans, sheared through five cars like a machete, ripped through 50 feet of guard rail and plunged nose first into the frozen Potomac River.

Moments later in a crowded subway car underneath the National Mall:

The train reversed direction.... with a loud popping and crunching sound and a sudden showering of sparks and electrical arcing.... Dozens of people of both sexes screamed. Slowly, surrealistically, the concrete abutment grew larger, closer and actually pressed the left center-rear of the car. The side and roof slowly caved in, almost as a foot crushes a tin can. More screaming, arcing, then silence.

It sounds like a scene in a Hollywood movie right before the hero or heroine springs into action. Tragically, however, this was no movie. It was real life in Washington on January 13, 1982.

A Congressional Beating: Sam Houston and William Stanbery

The well publicized incident between Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Harry Reid during the Fiscal Cliff negotiations was big news but it was hardly D.C.'s biggest dust up between members of Congress.

Let's turn back the clock to April 13, 1832. That evening, Congressman William Stanbery left his abode at Mrs. Queen's boarding house and went out for a walk along Pennsylvania Avenue. As he was crossing the street, he encountered Sam Houston -- then a Congressman from Tennessee -- and two members of the U.S. Senate who were on their way to the theater.

The chance meeting between colleagues was hardly serendipity.

Local History on Stage: A Conversation with Jacqueline E. Lawton, Playwright of OUR MAN BEVERLY SNOW

Local history isn't just for authors and documentary filmmakers. It's great fodder for artists, too!

Just ask playwright Jacqueline Lawton who is currently working on a drama production entitled OUR MAN BEVERLY SNOW, inspired by the 1835 race riot in Washington, D.C.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Jacqueline about the project and how she melds history and art on stage. Check out our conversation after the jump.

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

This is one of the most powerful images I have seen in a long time. It is a 1947 photo of Sally Fickland, the oldest living former slave in the country at the time, looking at the Emancipation Proclamation, which ordered that slaves in the South be freed in 1863.

Can you imagine the emotions that she must have been feeling in that moment?

From Sunday, December 30 through Tuesday, January 1, the National Archives is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the document with a special display in the East Rotunda Gallery.

An Elvis Sighting at the White House

Elvis Presley and President Nixon in the Oval Office, December 21, 1970. (Source: National Archives)

On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley showed up unannounced at the northwest gate of the White House with a handwritten six page letter to President Nixon. The letter iterated Elvis's desire to become a "Federal Agent-at-Large" in the war on drugs.

After a brief discussion with Elvis and his body guards, Nixon aide Egil Krogh became convinced the singer was sincere, and thought he might be helpful in reaching out to young people about the dangers of drug abuse. Elvis and Nixon met later than same day and were photographed in the Oval Office. Years later, that picture is one of the most popular holdings in the National Archives.

John Phillip Sousa Junior High School. (Source: Wikipedia user Dmadeo)

D.C.'s Own "Brown vs Board"

Ask most people what Supreme Court case ended public school segregation and (perhaps after checking their smartphone) they will say, “Brown vs. Board of Education.” That is would be correct… for most of the country. But, for citizens in the federally-controlled District of Columbia another case was more important.

Sixty years ago this week — on December 10, 1952 — the Supreme Court heard the first arguments in Bolling vs. Sharpe, a case filed on behalf of eleven African American parents whose children had been denied enrollment at D.C.'s John Phillip Sousa Junior High School on the basis of race. The court would issue its decision two years later alongside the more famous Brown decision.

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.

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