DC

Portrait of Alexander Gardner with a camera, taken around 1860

A Tale of Two Photographers: Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner

If you lived in nineteenth-century D.C. and wanted your picture taken, you couldn’t just whip out your own camera—you’d visit Pennsylvania Avenue NW, known locally as “photographer’s row.” This stretch of the avenue, between the White House and the nearly-finished Capitol building, was home to a cluster of photography studios and galleries. Between 1858 and 1881, the most fashionable and famous was Brady’s National Photographic Art Gallery. It was run by Mathew Brady and his manager, Alexander Gardner, whose partnership endured its own civil war. 

The History & Survival of Washington D.C.’s Chinatown

The Friendship Arch in D.C.’s Chinatown today

When walking the streets of downtown D.C. near Penn Quarter, Washington’s Chinatown is difficult to miss.  The vibrant Friendship Archway marks the entrance of the neighborhood, and if you look closely, you’ll even be able to spot markers of the Chinese zodiac on the crosswalks. But despite the area’s seemingly thriving shops and restaurants, Chinatown’s Chinese population today is estimated to be as low as 300. Things weren’t always this way, though. In fact, Chinatown was first located in a different D.C. neighborhood altogether. So how did Washington’s Chinese community first develop? What was Chinatown like before, and how and why did that change?

Dolley Madison in 1848, seated at a table

Dolley Madison, the Queen of Washington

Today she is widely remembered for her heroism during the War of 1812, when she saved a portrait of George Washington from being taken and burned by British invaders. But during her lifetime, Dolley Madison was best known as a prominent socialite, hostess, and politician in her own right—one of the country’s first celebrity personalities. 

The Filipino Women’s Club of Washington D.C.

Filipino Woman's Club, Washington, D.C.

When the U.S. entered WWII in late 1941, women all over Washington stepped up to fulfill wartime needs; and Filipino women were certainly no exception. The Filipino Women's Club of Washington, formed in 1943, played a crucial role in the war effort and inspired community when the city most needed it. 

The 1868 Mayoral Election, African-American Vote, and Riots That Followed

Howard University near Miner Hall in 1867

On January 8, 1867, Congress passed the District of Columbia Suffrage Bill, granting African-American men the right to vote for the first time in U.S. history. D.C.’s black community was ecstatic. But though this was certainly an exciting start, the stakes surrounding the black vote escalated in June 1868, when the two candidates for Washington’s new mayor promised vastly different futures for the city.

Mystic Nobles in the District

Shriners Parade, Washington, D.C. Nile, Seattle, Wash., 5/6/23 i.e., 6/5/23. District of Columbia United States Washington D.C. Washington D.C, 1923. [June 5] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016826905/.

In June of 1923, Washington, D.C. prepared for thousands of men to descend upon the city for the 49th  annual session of the Imperial Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. In other words, the Shriners were coming to town. Over the course of June 5, 6, and 7, the city would become a sea of fezzes as thousands of Shriners took part in a number of different events throughout the city, including a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, a massive concert at American League Park, and even an open invitation to overtake the White House by the President himself.

William Porter and Helen Leavitt sit on the back of a stagecoach, showing a banner that reads, "Taxation Without Representation."

In Washington, "Taxation Without Representation" is History

Most Americans are familiar with the phrase, of course. It brings to mind images of the Revolutionary War—colonists protesting a series of taxes imposed on them by the British Parliament, despite their lack of involvement in its affairs. According to tradition, the battle cry of “taxation without representation is tyranny” originated in Boston, where it featured in such famous displays as the Boston Tea Party.  In the popular imagination, the phrase defined the conflict that lead to the creation of our own, more just government. So how did the phrase come to be associated with Washington, D.C., the center of that government?

A Filipino Literary Landmark: The Manila House in D.C.

Filipino family in front of a house (Source: University of Maryland Libraries, Special Collections)

2422 K St. NW, nestled in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood just down the street from the George Washington University, looks like any other D.C. row house. But for the Filipino community in D.C. during the 1930s through the 1950s, it was a haven - a source of culture, community, and comfort. As those who remember it fondly today can testify, 2422 K St. NW wasn’t just a row house; it was the Manila House.

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