• Bert Shepard, WWII veteran who lost part of his right leg in combat over Germany, adjusts his artificial limb under the watchful eye of manager Ossie Bluege in 1945.
    Baseball Legends
     
     
    Despite losing his right leg in WWII, Bert Shepard defied the odds and played for the Washington Senators in 1945, becoming a local hero.
  • Would-be Presidential Assassin John Hinckley, Jr., in a mugshot taken after his arrest. (Photo credit: FBI)
    Reagan Assassination Attempt
     
     
    On March 30, 1981, a visitor arrived in Washington, on a mission to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.
  • Famous 1867 painting "Signing of the Alaska Treaty" by Emmanuel Leutze.
    Late-Night Negotiations
     
     
    In the early hours of March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska purchase in the heart of D.C.
  • President Taft Starts a Baseball Tradition in Washington, 1910
    William Howard Taft
     
     
    Presidential first pitches are commonplace at MLB stadiums now, but the tradition started with President Taft and the Washington Nationals in 1910.
  • Elizabeth Friedman (Source: NSA)
    Elizabeth Friedman
     
     
    During Prohibition, liquor smugglers communicated in code. But they were no match for D.C.'s Elizabeth Smith Friedman, who broke codes and gender barriers as a cryptanalyst for the United States Coast Guard.

"Dow Shalt Not Kill": The Story of the D.C. Nine

Four men are led out of a building by several police (source: Washington Area Spark)

“Nine persons broke into the Washington offices of Dow Chemical Co. at 15th and L Streets nw. yesterday, poured what they said was human blood on furniture and equipment and threw files out a fourth floor window,” read the front page of the Washington Post on Sunday, March 23, 1969.  The images which accompanied the article showed a chaotic scene: one protestor heaving files out of a broken window; papers scattered, as if struck by a tornado, across the pavement below. But these were not your ordinary criminals. 

When the Klan Descended on Washington

Klan members outside the U.S. Capitol in August 1925. (Source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

“Phantom-like hosts of the Ku Klux Klan spread their white robe over the most historic thoroughfare yesterday in one of the greatest demonstrations the city has ever seen.” So read The Washington Post on the morning of August 9th , 1925. On the previous afternoon, the nation’s capital bore witness to the largest Klan march in the city’s history as tens of thousands of robed Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Washington monument, most of them feeling no need to wear a mask.

George Mason's Impressive Ride to the Final Four

The 2006 George Mason basketball team poses for a group photo

There are some teams you expect to see excel each year in college basketball. Schools like the University of North Carolina or UCLA, which holds the record for most NCAA championship wins at 11. In 2006, George Mason was not one of those teams. The Fairfax school had only advanced to the NCAA tournament three times, and it had never won a single tournament game. Mason, largely a commuter school at the time, had only been playing in Division I since 1978.

But that year, the Patriots, who one columnist remarked "put the 'mid' in 'mid-major'" school,  went a wild, impressive journey to the NCAA Final Four. 

Dolley Madison and The Mercury 7

“The Mercury 7 astronauts (left to right) Slayton, Shepard, Schirra, Grissom, Glenn, Cooper, and Carpenter all raise their hands in reply to a question about whether they felt confident they would return from space – Glenn raised both hands,” 1959 (Photo Source: NASA) https://www.nasa.gov/feature/60-years-ago-nasa-introduces-mercury-7-astronauts

On April 9, 1959, the year-old National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) held a press conference to introduce the first ever American astronauts to the world. The seven military test pilots chosen to make up “The Mercury 7” sat lined at a table in the ballroom of the first NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., as press and public looked on. Although the introduction of astronauts into American culture was historic in itself, the building in which it took place carried a legacy that predated NASA by nearly 140 years. Namely, the building that NASA acquired as its first residence in the District was the longtime home of the lively and revered first lady, Dolley Madison.

"Skyrockets in Flight:" Starland Vocal Band Launched from D.C.

The Starland Vocal Band in 1977, the same year they won 2 grammys for their 1976 debut album, which included the song "Afternoon Delight." (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The soundtrack of the summer of 1976 was a special one. Just after the USA celebrated its Bicentennial, one unlikely song, with its folksy style and airtight harmonization, soared past the countless disco tunes to the number 1 spot on the Billboard charts. No matter how you feel about it, “Afternoon Delight” was perhaps the perfect way to celebrate our independence. With lyrics referencing “skyrockets in flight,” the song (and the band behind it) has a very strong connection to the Nation’s Capital.  

It all started in 1974, when musicians Bill Danoff and Margot Chapman stopped at Clyde’s in Georgetown for a meal...  

The Birchmere Gets Its Start

Exterior of the original Birchmere location

Gary Oelze purchased a Shirlington restaurant called the Birchmere in the mid 1960s. At the time, he wasn't planning to get into the music business. But soon, the Birchmere became a hub for bluegrass music in the nation's capital. Today, it is an internationally renowned music hall that draws fans of every musical genre. 

End of an Era: The Evening Star Fades in Washington

“There is a great silence today in Washington. A fine newspaper is gone and a noble tradition ended.”

Ronald Reagan’s words appeared on the front page of the August 7, 1981, issue of the Washington Evening Star. The biggest piece of news that day was the end of a 128-year-old Washington institution—the story of the newspaper’s own demise.  

 

The Lesser-Known National Aquarium

Photo of empty National Aquarium in basement of Department of Commerce, 1932. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Since opening in 1981, the National Aquarium in Baltimore has proved a popular tourist destination, an educational excursion, and a great refuge from the heat in summer months. Many people don’t know, however, that there was a smaller, more modest National Aquarium in D.C. for years before the one in Baltimore popped up.

Those who recall the original National Aquarium will remember it as a dark, tiny exhibit tucked away in the basement of a gigantic government building. But how exactly did this little-known Washington spot end up on the lowest floor of the Department of Commerce—today known as the Herbert C. Hoover building—on 14th St NW?

L'Enfant's Guide to Getting Fired

It takes a lot of talent to design a city, especially one with such sweeping vistas and wide, radial streets as our Nation’s Capital.  It’s hard not to admire the vision of Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the engineer behind Washington, D.C. But everybody makes mistakes—even visionaries— and L’Enfant was certainly no exception.

His biggest blunder was probably tearing down the house of his boss’s nephew. 

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