Maryland

Jimmy Lafontaine: "The Gentleman Gambler"

Washington’s Godfather: “Gentleman Gambler” Jimmy Lafontaine

When one thinks of the gambling scene in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s, the likes of Al Capone, Frank Costello, and Bugsy Siegel immediately spring to mind. However, the District had its own gambling godfather and Jimmy Lafontaine couldn’t have been further from the American gangster archetype. Though his extralegal line of work inevitably brought him unwelcome brushes with mobsters and the law, his story is not one of bootlegged booze or mysterious murders. Rather, he’s most often remembered for his charity and reputation as Washington’s “gentleman gambler.”

Woodward & Lothrop Shelve Haggling For Good

Street scene, Woodward & Lothrop, 11th and F Streets, NW, Washington, D.C. (Source: Library of Congress)

In the 19th century, before chains like Macy’s and Sears-Roebuck, Washington, D.C. had Woodward & Lothrop. Known affectionately as “Woodies,” it was among the first department stores in the District, and remained the leading retailer in the city for nearly a century. It pioneered modern retailing from returns policies down to the department store choir, revolutionizing the way goods were sold and the culture of department stores.

When Carl Bernstein Reviewed 'Sgt. Pepper'

The Beatles outside manager Brian Epstein's house at 24 Chapel Street, London, during the press launch for their new album, 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', 19th May 1967. (Photo by Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images)

June 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, lauded as the first "concept" album and perennially on critics' lists of the best of all time. There has also been a good deal of recent reflection on the Watergate scandal and the role of Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who broke the story that brought down an American president in 1974. But did you know there is a local connection between these seemingly disparate yet historically-significant events?

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. 

The Engrossed Declaration of Independence, circa. 1776 (source: Library of Congress)

Lost from History: Josias Wilson King

Josias Wilson King is a name that would probably not ring any bells. In fact, even when Google-searched, it takes a great amount of effort to find much if anything about him. In life, however, he interacted with some of the most prominent men in American history – Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – was involved in the first scandal in the Library of Congress’ history, and helped to save America’s keystone documents.

Filene Center in 1980. (Source: Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Wolf Trap Captures the Hearts of the DMV

Today, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is a mainstay of Washington, D.C.’s cultural life. The park’s large outdoor auditorium and beautiful green space play host to a variety of performers. However, 50 years ago, some politicians questioned whether it was a wise decision for the government to accept the land gift from Catherine Filene Shouse and build the performing arts center.

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