“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.
What songs come to mind when you think of Washington, D.C.? Maybe Go-go music, or patriotic Sousa marches? Then of course there’s the “official” song, that instantly recognizable classic— “Washington,” by Jimmie Dodd (Yes, the composer is the same grown man who went on to lead the Mouseketeers in the original “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955).
Doesn’t ring a bell? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
By mid 1944, Washingtonians had known for some time that a major invasion of Europe was in store. But when news of D-Day came on June 6, 1944, it was still a sobering event. The city reacted with a combination of pause and activity.
On a beautiful June day in 1889, 25,000 people covered nearly six acres of the Smithsonian grounds for a glorious awards ceremony. Of the crowd, 22,000 were children, ranging in age from toddlers to high schoolers, and were the first members of the new Washington Post Amateur Authors’ Association, which the newspaper started 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."