• The Big Chair in Anacostia (Source: Flickr user stgermh. Used via Creative Commons license.)
    Strange But True
     
     
    In one of D.C.'s more creative publicity stunts, an Anacostia furniture store built a giant dining room chair and paid a local model to live on top of it for six weeks in the summer of 1960.
  • Mary Church Terrell
     
     
    Ending segregation in Washington restaurants hinged on activism and the Supreme Court's interpretation of DC laws which had been literally lost.
  • Potomac's Past
     
     
    A spattering of stone ruins and a handful of crumbling locks are all that remain of a town conceived by none other than George Washington.
  • The Peacock Room (Source: Wikipedia, used via CC BY-SA 2.0)
    Art History
     
     
    When the Smithsonian dragged its feet, Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to secure one of the world greatest art collections for the nation.
  • Gravestone image.  (Source: Thomas Boudren, An Open Letter to the Governor and Members of the General Assembly of Connecticut, Bridgeport, Connecticut: Press of the Farmer Pub., Co., 1911)
    Medical History
     
     
    First, Howard University instructor Harry Bradford fought against vaccines. Then, he got in a fight with his employer.
Two bison in front of the Smithsonian Castle, downtown Washington, D.C., circa 1880's. The bison were used as models for Smithsonian Institution taxidermists and were part of the Live Animal Collection, forerunner to the National Zoo. (Photo source: Smithsonian Archives)

Happy Birthday, National Zoo!

On March 2, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation establishing a zoological park along Rock Creek in Northwest Washington “for the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” But, of course, the backstory began years before.

Prior to the creation of the Zoo park, the Smithsonian kept a large collection of animals in pens and cages on the National Mall. Washingtonians flocked to see the motley collection which included a jaguar, grizzly bear, lynx and buffalo.

Buffalo grazing on the National Mall! Can you imagine?

Little Known Victims of the Lincoln Assassination

Currier and Ives, The Assassination of Lincoln at Ford's Theater, April 14, 1865. (Photo Source: Library of Congress)

The events of April 14, 1865 at Ford's Theatre in Washington are well know. Actor John Wilkes Booth went into President Lincoln's box and shot him. The President was mortally wounded and died the next morning. Meanwhile, Booth led authorities on a 12 day chase that ended with his own death in Virginia. What you may not know, however, is that there were others were victimized that April night. This is their haunting story.

The Seneca Stone Ring Scandal

We're happy to have a guest post from local historian and friend of the blog, Garrett Peck who is the author of  The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry, just released from The History Press.

Garrett's book tells the story of a (until recently!) largely-forgotten quarry in Seneca, Maryland, which provided the stone for the Smithsonian Castle and a host of other local landmarks. As he explains, the quarry also proved to be a source of scandal for President U.S. Grant in the 1870s.

Did Led Zeppelin play at the Wheaton Youth Center on January 20, 1969? (Photo: Jeff Krulik)

Did Led Zeppelin Play Here?

Led Zeppelin's first live show in the DC area may have been at the Wheaton Youth Center — a nondescript gymnasium in a Maryland suburb on January 20, 1969, in front of 50 confused teens. But there are no photos, articles or a paper trail of any sort to prove it.

Surely this must be an urban legend. Or is it?

Local filmmaker Jeff Krulik has spent 5 years trying to find out if this concert ever really happened. The result of this investigation is his new film, Led Zeppelin Played Here. We caught up with Jeff after a recent screening to ask about this intriguing project.

On February 2, 1959 (l-r) Michael Jones, Gloria Thompson, Ronald Deskins and Lance Newman became the first black students to break the color line in Virginia's public schools. (Source: Washington Post website)

It Happened Here First: Arlington Students Integrate Virginia Schools

On February 2, 1959, Stratford Junior High School (now H-B Woodlawn High School) in Arlington was the first public school in Virginia to be integrated. That morning, four African American seventh graders – Ronald Deskins, Lance Newman, Michael Jones and Gloria Thompson – started classes at the school with over 100 Arlington County police officers in riot gear standing guard. To the great relief of the community, there was no violence or disorder (though two students were sent home for setting off a firecracker in a school bathroom)

The day had been a long time coming.

Commemorating the Four Chaplains

The Second World War abounds with stories of heroism. This weekend, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of a now little-known event: the sinking of the U.S. Army transport ship Dorchester and the brave sacrifices made by four chaplains, including the Washington-raised Rabbi Alexander Goode.

Thanks to David McKenzie from the Jewish Historical Society of Washington for contributing this guest post!

Mr. Ford Goes to Washington

Ford Motor Company super-fan Ernest Franke, a retired D.C. baker, drove circles around the White House hoping to show off his 1921 Ford model to Henry Ford when the car magnate met with FDR on April 27, 1938. Franke eventually was shooed away by guards. (Source: Library of Congress)

Tonight at 9pm on WETA Television, American Experience premieres a new documentary about Henry Ford, so we thought we’d look back upon one of Henry Ford’s more anticipated trips to D.C.

In April 1938, the country was still trying to pull itself out of the Depression and there was a lot of conversation and debate about the role of government in business. (Hmmm… Sound familiar?) So, when car magnate – and frequent critic of FDR’s regulatory New Deal policies – Henry Ford accepted the President’s invitation to come to the White House for a private luncheon and discussion, it was big news -- especially for one local Ford Motor Company super-fan.

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