As a historian, seeing the media “buzz” surrounding cicadas makes me wonder how our ancestors reacted to their periodical swarms. Who were the first people to realize what was going on? Did they understand the seventeen-year cycle? Were they afraid, curious, or unbothered? As I suspected, Washington-area locals have been fascinated by Brood X for a very long time.
Every seventeen years, the Brood X cicadas create a buzz in the treetops and in the press. The story of the time traveling insects tells an interesting tale of how much changes in the world over their hibernation period and how much doesn't at all.
Though most Americans (and Google) associate the name with Cornelius “Chevy” Chase, the actor of National Lampoon fame, those of us in the D.C. area know that Chevy Chase, Maryland had it first. Rumor has it, though, that the man and the town actually get their names from the same place: an English ballad that’s at least 500 years old.
“I personally want to try and change the stereotype of what somebody in a wheelchair is like… I want to be judged not on my disabilities but on my abilities. I think people get frightened by the wheelchair… It’s a powerful visual symbol, but it’s not a symbol of defeat. It’s a tool I use to help me accomplish my goals. Just by climbing into the wheelchair, I don’t have to surrender my sexuality, my sensuality, my good sense of humor, or anything," said Kit Kamien, a Bethesda musician who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 26, to The Washington Post in 1987.
The battle lasted about half an hour, and when the smoke cleared, Captain Frank Whitehurst lay dead in a pool of his own blood on the deck of the Albert Nickel, a Baltimore oyster schooner. While Whitehurst met a fate avoided by most, the so called “Oyster Wars” had been brewing for more than 100 years prior to that fateful night on the Severn River.
For nearly two centuries, Maryland and Virginia were engaged in conflict over one of the region’s valuable resources — oysters. Full of inconsistent enforcement and rampant law-breaking, it took the president’s signature to end the Oyster Wars.
Today, you may know the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal best as a destination for outdoor activities, roaring waterfalls and historic lockhouses (which can be rented, thanks to the Canal Quarters Lockhouse Program!) But, the C&O Canal has a history with more twists and turns than the route of the canal itself. One of the most interesting chapters in C&O history was from 1938-1942, when two all-Black Civilian Conservation Corps companies worked to refurbish the decaying canal.
In July of 1978, thousands of Native American demonstrators arrived in the capital to protest eleven pieces of legislation, and raise awareness about issues faced by Indigenous peoples. This was the end of a 3,000 mile journey known as the Longest Walk.
In the mid nineteenth-century, one-third (or more!) of all U.S. currency was counterfeit. The banking system was broken and every private bank issued unique paper bills. By the 1860s, the government had to take action: currency became nationally standardized and the Secret Service was born.
Bethesda has become one of Washington’s busiest, most populated suburban communities. It’s hard to believe that, only 150 years ago, it was a little roadside stop haphazardly named after its general store!