• 1874 Illustration of U.S. Botanic Garden
    National Mall
     
     
    The U.S. Botanic Garden dates to the earliest planning of the capital city. Many of the Founding Fathers believed that a living repository for plants would have countless benefits, from the production of food and medicine to the scientific study of international specimens to the enjoyment of aesthetic beauty.
  • The real life "Smokey the Bear," shown here frolicking in a pool at the National Zoo c.1950, was the embodiment of a fire safety public awareness campaign that started during World War II. (Photo credit: Francine Schroeder, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Used for educational purposes in accordance with the Smithsonian Archives terms of use.)
    Strange But True
     
     
    How did Smokey the Bear come to have his very own personal Washington, D.C. zipcode? Glad you asked.
  • David Bowie jams at a party thrown by publicist Rodney Bingenheimer at lawyer Paul Figen's house in January 1971, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
    David Bowie: 1947-2016
     
     
    In 1971 a largely unknown David Bowie landed at Dulles Airport and stayed in the Washington, D.C. area on his first visit to America.
  • Sam's Park and Shop
     
     
    In 1930, it shaped the modern American shopping experience and was the model for the type of shopping-center that is still standard today.
  • Women suffragists picketing in front of the White House in 1917. (Source Library of Congress via Wikipedia)
    Women's Suffrage
     
     
    While tame by today's standards, a century ago, Washington was the site of "the most militant move ever made by the suffragists of this country."
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. In 2013, we commemorated 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)

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.

Who Should Be the Nationals' New Racing President?

Alright, this is big news. Tomorrow, the Washington Nationals will announce a new Racing President to run against George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and longtime-lovable-loser-turned-late-season-winner, Teddy Roosevelt at each Nationals home game. D.C. is waiting with bated breath.

So, who will it be? Here at Boundary Stones headquarters, we've been debating the issue all week and identified a few leading candidates. Give these nominations a read and then tell us your vote in the comments below!

Impressions of Washington: "The head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva"

When Charles Dickens visited Washington in 1842, he had a lot to say. But, perhaps nothing caught his eye -- and ire -- as much as Washingtonians' obvious love of chewing tobacco.

As Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise, that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable, and soon became most offensive and sickening.

Apparently Predicting D.C. Weather Has Always Been a Fickle Business

Weren't we supposed to get snow today? At one point the word was that D.C. might get five or six inches... then it was down to an inch or two... then a dusting... now, nothing. It's a major disappointment for those of us who like the white fluffy stuff.

Well, it seems predicting the weather here has always been a little bit of a crapshoot. Check out this cartoon that ran on the front page of the Washington Evening Star newspaper exactly 100 years ago today, January 17, 1913.

A bunch of stocking-cap clad kids are ready to go sledding in Washington but, like today... NO SNOW, just clouds. I wonder if their grassroots "We Demand A New Weather Man" campaign had any impact?

Kudos to the folks at the D.C. Public Library's Washingtoniana division for pulling this gem out of the archives. If you haven't yet, go ahead and like them on Facebook. They are posting fun stuff like this all the time.

Friedrich Ratzel

Impressions of Washington: A German Visitor to the Smithsonian in 1874

It's always interesting to read what visitors and residents of Washington have had to say about our fair city over the years.

In 1873, the Kölnische Zeitung (Cologne Daily News) asked German anthropologist Friedrich Ratzel to take a trip to the United States and write a series of articles about life in America. He reached Washington in the winter of 1874 and, as a scientist, was particularly interested in the Smithsonian building. See what he had to say.

Two Tragedies in One Day

It was snowing on the 14th Street Bridge and traffic had ground to a standstill as thousands of federal workers and other rush-hour commuters tried to get home ahead of a major storm. With an awful metallic crack, a blue-and-white jet swept out of the swirling snow at 4 p.m., smacked against one of the bridge's spans, sheared through five cars like a machete, ripped through 50 feet of guard rail and plunged nose first into the frozen Potomac River.

Moments later in a crowded subway car underneath the National Mall:

The train reversed direction.... with a loud popping and crunching sound and a sudden showering of sparks and electrical arcing.... Dozens of people of both sexes screamed. Slowly, surrealistically, the concrete abutment grew larger, closer and actually pressed the left center-rear of the car. The side and roof slowly caved in, almost as a foot crushes a tin can. More screaming, arcing, then silence.

It sounds like a scene in a Hollywood movie right before the hero or heroine springs into action. Tragically, however, this was no movie. It was real life in Washington on January 13, 1982.

Sam Houston (Source: Wikipedia)

A Congressional Beating: Sam Houston and William Stanbery

The well publicized incident between Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Harry Reid during the Fiscal Cliff negotiations was big news but it was hardly D.C.'s biggest dust up between members of Congress.

Let's turn back the clock to April 13, 1832. That evening, Congressman William Stanbery left his abode at Mrs. Queen's boarding house and went out for a walk along Pennsylvania Avenue. As he was crossing the street, he encountered Sam Houston -- then a Congressman from Tennessee -- and two members of the U.S. Senate who were on their way to the theater.

The chance meeting between colleagues was hardly serendipity.

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