One of just two Black women in the White House Press Corps during the 1950s and 1960s, Ethel Payne repeatedly demonstrated her determination to deliver the truth to her readers -- informed by her experience. Responding the criticism that she should be more objective, Payne responded, “I stick to my firm, unshakeable belief that the black press is an advocacy press, and that I, as a part of that press, can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased…when it comes to issues that really affect my people, and I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change.”
For the first weeks of his presidency, Calvin Coolidge conducted business from a different iconic D.C. residence — the Willard Hotel. The Coolidges lived at the hotel while he was Vice President and they waited to move to the White House until Warren Harding’s family had time to move out after he died in office.
Before pandas became the celebrities at the National Zoo, President Calvin Coolidge's pet hippopotamus drew the large crowds. Meet William J. Hippopotamus, one of the most famous animals in D.C. history.
April 17, 1970 was a big day for the United States—President Richard Nixon even described it as the “proudest day of [his] life and in the life of the country.” That afternoon, the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and made it to safety. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.
But the day wasn’t over yet. That evening, President Nixon would sit in the East Room of the White House for another cultural milestone: a legendary performance by country music star Johnny Cash.
Approximately 530 million Americans across the country, including those in the White House, sat glued to their television sets on the evening of July 20, 1969, watching as Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. It may have been President John F. Kennedy who jumpstarted the space program in 1961, but it was Richard Nixon sitting in the Oval Office the day that JFK’s promise of putting a man on the moon became a reality. It was also Nixon who would mark the occasion by making the longest distance phone call in history that night, as he picked up the Oval Office phone and dialed Space.
It used to be that presidential pets were considered nothing special, but after World War I, Washingtonians were looking for happy news — and they got it in the form of a happy-go-lucky dog that changed how Americans looked at animals who lived in the White House.
One of the most memorable neighborhood block parties in recent memory kicked into gear as the Olympic flame came to Washington in the summer of 1996. From Rockville to Reston, area residents got into the Olympic spirit as they welcomed the unusual guest.
Nearly every year since 1878, children and their parents have flocked to the White House grounds on the Monday after Easter to roll eggs at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. In the era of Jim Crow, it was one of the few social events where people from all races, and classes could mingle. But how did the tradition get started?
While Presidents of the United States have received all different kinds of honors and gifts throughout the years, there is one particular 19th century trend of presidential gift-giving that stands out…or maybe stands alone. Giant wheels of cheese have appeared at the White House multiple times in presidential history, starting in 1801 when Thomas Jefferson was gifted the 4 foot-wide, 17 inch-high, 1,235 pound Cheshire “Mammoth” Cheese from the citizens of Cheshire, Massachusetts. Funny enough, Jefferson’s Mammoth Cheese was not the last one to enter the White House. Andrew Jackson received his 1,400 pound New York-made Mammoth Cheese in 1835, and invited all of Washington to a party at the White House two years later to eat it.
The celebrated, yet ever tormented, writer Edgar Allan Poe, famously spent much of his life living in Baltimore and Richmond, but he surprisingly spent very little time in D.C. despite residing in such close proximity. He did however have one…interesting encounter in Washington. Frequent transitions through different literary critic jobs left him in a constant state of mental and financial instability; this led Poe to determine that he needed to find a job that could provide him with more financial security. His friend Frederick William Thomas was friends with President John Tyler's son, Robert, and offered to help get him a government job. Eventually, in 1843, Poe traveled down to Washington from his home in Philadelphia to meet with the President. The true account of how Poe conducted himself upon arriving is still contested today.