1880s

The Washington Post Celebrates Young Authors With One of the Most Famous Pieces of Music in History

Sousa, John Philip. Washington Post. Harry Coleman, Philadelphia, 1889. Notated Music. https://www.loc.gov/item/sousa.200028287/.

On a beautiful June day in 1889, 25,000 people covered nearly six acres of the Smithsonian grounds for a glorious awards ceremony. 22,000 of them were children, who ranged in age from toddlers to high schoolers, and were the first members of the new Washington Post Amateur Authors’ Association, which was started by the newspaper to encourage students to excel in English composition. The incentive to join the Association? The opportunity to enter the essay writing competition for the chance to win a stunning solid gold medal. 

Although it might seem like these handsome gold medals would be the main highlight of this event, the jewelry actually wasn’t the only gem to come out of the ceremony…Those present at the Smithsonian grounds that day were also witnesses to the premiere of what would become one of the most famous pieces of music in history: "The Washington Post March."

Lansburgh Corners the Market on Black Crêpe

“Lansburgh's Department Store - Washington DC - Adolf Cluss” (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lansburgh%27s_Department_Store_-_Washington_DC_-_Adolf_Cluss.jpg

April 14th, 1865 marks the date of one of the most shocking and memorable events in Washington and American history: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. By 10:30 p.m. that night, the President’s death was looking imminent, and after hearing this news just two blocks over at 7th and D Streets NW, Gustave Lansburgh, owner of Lansburgh & Bros. Fancy Goods Agency, decided to start decorating his store in mourning black. It was this small decision that would transform Lansburgh’s dry goods store into one of the most prosperous Washington department stores for the next 113 years.

1884: The Year of Two Nationals

1888 Washington Nationals Baseball Club (Source: Wikipedia)

Over the years, Washington, D.C. has been home to numerous professional baseball teams, very few of them with winning records. But, 1884 might take the cake for weirdness. That year, the nation's capital boasted two separate teams called the Washington Nationals. They finished a combined 59-116.

Two bison in front of the Smithsonian Castle, downtown Washington, D.C., circa 1880's. The bison were used as models for Smithsonian Institution taxidermists and were part of the Live Animal Collection, forerunner to the National Zoo. (Photo source: Smithsonian Archives)

Happy Birthday, National Zoo!

On March 2, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation establishing a zoological park along Rock Creek in Northwest Washington “for the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” But, of course, the backstory began years before.

Prior to the creation of the Zoo park, the Smithsonian kept a large collection of animals in pens and cages on the National Mall. Washingtonians flocked to see the motley collection which included a jaguar, grizzly bear, lynx and buffalo.

Buffalo grazing on the National Mall! Can you imagine?