In Rock Creek Park, there's a granite bench on the trail near Beach Drive, just south of Peirce Mill, that bears a curious inscription: "Jusserand: Personal tribute of esteem and effection."
It's a safe bet that most of the people who pass by the odd little 78-year-old memorial don't realize that it commemorates one of President Theodore Roosevelt's close friends, French ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand (1855-1932), who spent numerous afternoons hiking with the 26th President in Rock Creek Park. Historian Scott Einberger notes that the Gallic diplomat reportedly was one of few people in Washington who could keep up with Teddy on a hike, but as Jusserand himself admitted in his memoirs, that was no easy feat: "What the President called a walk was a run: No stop, no breathing time, no slacking of speed, but a continuous race, careless of mud, thorns and the rest."
The Roosevelt family's roots are in New York, but they clearly had a strong connection to Washington, D.C. Having two presidents and a first lady in the ranks will do that. In that sense, it's fitting that D.C. is home to one of the largest Roosevelt archives today. No, we're not talking about the Library of Congress or the National Archives (though assuredly those repositories have plenty of stuff on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor). No, we're talking about The Eleanor Roosevelt project at The George Washington University.
The project has put a huge selection of Eleanor's writings online, including all 8,112 editions of the My Day column, which was syndicated in newspapers across the country from 1935-1962. Those are interesting.
But the real gold in the collection might be the digitized If You Ask Me, advice column that Eleanor wrote for Ladies Home Journal and, later, McCall's magazine.
Artist James McNeill Whistler’s most famous painting is probably his portrait, Whistler’s Mother, but to Washingtonians, there is another work that captures the imagination.
Tucked away in a corner of the Freer Gallery, Whistler’s “Peacock Room” beckons people with its distinct lure. Victorian gas lamps, gilded patterns of gold, and Chinese pottery all come together to create quite a spectacle. This is not just a normal art exhibit, however. It's more of a story.
In 1932, as the nation lingered in the desperate depths of the Great Depression, thousands of World War I veterans and their families marched on Washington to demand immediate lump-sum payment of their military pensions. To the consternation of President Herbert Hoover, who was about to embark upon a difficult reelection campaign, the ragtag army camped in tents and shacks along the Anacostia River, and began trying to pressure the White House and Congress by marching up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Unfortunately, the bill to pay them their benefits passed the House but was overwhelmingly defeated in the Senate in June.
The marchers stubbornly stayed, and rebuffed the Hoover administration's offer of train fare out of town. In response, Hoover decided to evict them by force. On July 28, in one of the most disturbing moments in the history of Washington, U.S. horse cavalry wearing gas masks and steel helmets, and backed by five tanks, descended upon the bonus marchers, scattering them and their wives and children and burning their campsites.
In 1939, in what became one of the most painful moments in Washington music history, celebrated African-American singer Marian Anderson was denied an opportunity to perform for an integrated audience at Constitution Hall because of her race. Then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, which owned and operated the concert hall. Anderson's manager, Sol Hurok, capitalized on the First Lady's support to seek federal government approval for the singer give an open-air performance instead.
On April 9 of that year, a crowd of 75,000 people, which included Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes and Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial and listened to Anderson sing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" on the memorial's steps. According to the New York Times' account, six microphones carried Anderson's voice to millions of radio listeners throughout the country.
Valentine’s Days were unusually eventful for Theodore Roosevelt and family, as this date marked some of the happiest and darkest periods in their lives. On February 14th of 1880, the 21-year-old future president publicly announced his engagement to Alice Hathaway Lee. The two previous years of dating sparked a short but intensely happy bond. Teddy and Alice were married the next October and, four years later, welcomed their first child.
On Valentine’s Day of 1884, Teddy was getting used to first-time parenthood. Baby Alice (named after her mother) was born just two days earlier, while he was away and he was eager to return home to spend time with his growing family. But what should have been a joyous time quickly turned tragic.
Pete Seeger was a performer whose art was intertwined in close harmony with a slew of social causes, ranging from civil rights and the organized labor movement to environmentalism. As he once wrote, "Music, as any art, is not an end in itself, but is a means for achieving larger ends." While Seeger lived most of his life in upstate New York, Seeger's twin passions for music and activism often brought him to Washington, where his calm eloquence and forthrightness gave him influence in the White House — and also subjected him to peril.
In an age before e-news, social media, and cellphones, one pageant helped bring the truth about the tragedy unfolding in Hitler’s Europe to the nation’s attention.
Seventy years after First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, hundreds of members of Congress, and several Supreme Court Justices convened in Constitution Hall to learn of the atrocities being committed in Europe, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington marked the anniversary of that pageant, entitled We Will Never Die – a Mass Memorial to the Two Million Dead of Europe.