Will Hughes

Will Hughes can't remember a time when he didn't love a good story. Whether it was an elementary school teacher talking about what it was like being a part of the Civil Rights movement, or a genteel South Carolina grandfather regaling him with the tales from battlefields of eras past, Will couldn't stop listening to and thinking about history's connections to the present. After leaving his hometown of Atlanta for the tundra of Minnesota, he graduated with a Bachelor's in History from Macalester College in May, 2012. Previous to working at WETA, he created exhibits for a local history museum in Shakopee, MN, and also interpreted & cataloged early 20th century political cartoons for the Minneapolis Library.

Posts by Will Hughes

Horatio Greenough's classical George Washington sculpture. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Horatio Greenough’s Near Naked Washington

The nation’s capital is chock full of statues, memorials, monuments, historic markers, and museums. As the seat of the United States government, Washington has a unique niche as both a repository of history and as a tourist spot. Some monuments are world-famous, some now reside in hidden corners, some are the centers of conspiracy theories (as Dan Brown and National Treasure fans will know), and some have been forgotten altogether. One statue in particular has been all of these things – and more – since it was first created: Horatio Greenough’s George Washington.

Francis Blackwell Mayer's painting of the burning of the Peggy Stewart during the Annapolis Tea Party in 1774. (Source: Maryland State Archives)

The Annapolis Tea Party of 1774

Today marks the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. Over 200 years after it happened, the incident remains one of the most popular images of the Revolutionary period. That’s no surprise. After all, there’s a certain romanticism to the story of costumed colonists dumping crates of valuable tea into Boston Harbor.

But, while the Boston protest remains the most famous demonstration against the British taxation measures, it was not the only one. There were protests throughout the colonies and one of the most dramatic played out in our own back yard — Annapolis, Maryland — in 1774.

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.

Portrait of Yarrow Mamout by Chales Wilson Peale, 1819.

Yarrow Mamout's Place in History

Yarrow Mamout was the most prominent African American in early Washington.  He was a Muslim, educated in West Africa to read and write in Arabic.  He and a sister arrived in America from on a slave ship in 1752. After forty-five years as a slave of the Beall family of Maryland, Yarrow (his last name) gained his freedom and settled in Georgetown. In 1800, he acquired the property at what is now 3324 Dent Place and lived there the rest of his life.

The house on Yarrow Mamout’s old lot in Georgetown is scheduled for demolition, but efforts are underway to save any artifacts from his occupancy as well as his mortal remains from the bulldozer.

Would you give this man a library card? (Source: Wikipedia)

George Washington’s Overdue Books

George Washington, the father of our country, was a deadbeat book borrower? Apparently so. In April of 2010, the New York Library Society was going through the process of restoring and digitizing their holdings when an employee stumbled across the long lost fourteen-volume collection, Common Debates, a collection of transcripts from the English House of Commons. But, the collection was missing a volume. A check of the old circulation ledger proved that volume #12 had last been checked out by library patron George Washington October 5, 1789, along with a book by Emer de Vattel, entitled Law of Nations.

The books were due back on November 2, but according to the records, neither was ever returned.

Hugh Bennett and the Perfect Storm

Think the impacts of the Dust Bowl were only felt in the Great Plains? Think again. In the spring of 1935, a dust storm nearly blocked out the sun above Washington, alarming local citizens and spurring Congress to take action on soil erosion policy.

Capital for a Day

Almost 200 years later, Brookville, Maryland celebrates its brief moment in history. (Photo source: Flickr user dan reed!)

If you’re passing through Brookeville, Maryland these days the town might not seem too different from the other suburban stops along Georgia Avenue. But don’t be fooled. Brookeville has a unique claim to fame. For one day during the War of 1812, it was the capital of the United States.

But if a couple of residents would've had their way, it wouldn't have happened!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War. (Photo by James A. DeYoung/Alexandria City website)

The Less-Known Unknown

Yesterday, we posted a story about the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery in 1921. Most readers are probably familiar with that memorial (and, if they read our post, they now know a little about its history). It is, after all, one of the most sacred places in the country.

But, what you may not know is that there is another Tomb of the Unknown just down the road in Alexandria, Virginia. In the burial yard of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House at 323 South Fairfax Street lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. It is just seven miles away from its more famous counterpart, but light-years apart in the amount of attention it receives.

General Ambrose E. Burnside, the father of the sideburn. (Source: Wikipedia)

November is an Appropriate Time to Remember Ambrose E. Burnside

Just as this week’s cold snap sent many people searching for their winter coats, it also reminded some shivering citizens of a particular month-long “celebration” that keeps their cheeks warm, too: “No-Shave November.”

As a person who appreciates history and a good facial hair crop, I couldn’t help but think of certain furry Civil War general who rose to prominence 150 years ago this week.

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