• 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."

Local History on Stage: A Conversation with Jacqueline E. Lawton, Playwright of OUR MAN BEVERLY SNOW

Local history isn't just for authors and documentary filmmakers. It's great fodder for artists, too!

Just ask playwright Jacqueline Lawton who is currently working on a drama production entitled OUR MAN BEVERLY SNOW, inspired by the 1835 race riot in Washington, D.C.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Jacqueline about the project and how she melds history and art on stage. Check out our conversation after the jump.

Java Shack (Photo by Mark Jones)

Nazis in Arlington: George Rockwell and the ANP

Today the small brick building at 2507 N. Franklin Rd. in Arlington is the home of the Javashack, a hip coffee shop with specialty brews, free wifi and – as one patron termed it – “left-leaning politics.”

This is quite a departure from the building’s previous life. From 1968-1984, this duplex was the national headquarters of the American Nazi Party. A swastika hung over the doorway (visible from busy Wilson Blvd half a block away) and khaki-clad “storm troopers” occupied the space, developing anti-Jewish propaganda, proclaiming White Power and periodically clashing with neighbors.

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

This is one of the most powerful images I have seen in a long time. It is a 1947 photo of Sally Fickland, the oldest living former slave in the country at the time, looking at the Emancipation Proclamation, which ordered that slaves in the South be freed in 1863.

Can you imagine the emotions that she must have been feeling in that moment?

From Sunday, December 30 through Tuesday, January 1, the National Archives is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the document with a special display in the East Rotunda Gallery.

An Elvis Sighting at the White House

Elvis Presley and President Nixon in the Oval Office, December 21, 1970. (Source: National Archives)

On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley showed up unannounced at the northwest gate of the White House with a handwritten six page letter to President Nixon. The letter iterated Elvis's desire to become a "Federal Agent-at-Large" in the war on drugs.

After a brief discussion with Elvis and his body guards, Nixon aide Egil Krogh became convinced the singer was sincere, and thought he might be helpful in reaching out to young people about the dangers of drug abuse. Elvis and Nixon met later than same day and were photographed in the Oval Office. Years later, that picture is one of the most popular holdings in the National Archives.

Francis Blackwell Mayer's painting of the burning of the Peggy Stewart during the Annapolis Tea Party in 1774. (Source: Maryland State Archives)

The Annapolis Tea Party of 1774

Today marks the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. Over 200 years after it happened, the incident remains one of the most popular images of the Revolutionary period. That’s no surprise. After all, there’s a certain romanticism to the story of costumed colonists dumping crates of valuable tea into Boston Harbor.

But, while the Boston protest remains the most famous demonstration against the British taxation measures, it was not the only one. There were protests throughout the colonies and one of the most dramatic played out in our own backyard — Annapolis, Maryland — in 1774.

John Phillip Sousa Junior High School. (Source: Wikipedia user Dmadeo)

D.C.'s Own "Brown vs Board"

Ask most people what Supreme Court case ended public school segregation and (perhaps after checking their smartphone) they will say, “Brown vs. Board of Education.” That is would be correct… for most of the country. But, for citizens in the federally-controlled District of Columbia another case was more important.

On December 10, 1952 the Supreme Court heard the first arguments in Bolling vs. Sharpe, a case filed on behalf of eleven African American parents whose children had been denied enrollment at D.C.'s John Phillip Sousa Junior High School on the basis of race. The court would issue its decision two years later alongside the more famous Brown decision.

The Langley Aerodrome

Nowaways nearly everyone knows that Orville and Wilbur Wright were the “First in Flight,” but that wasn’t always the case. A local scientist almost knocked them out of the history books... twice. In 1903 a team under the direction of Smithsonian Institute Secretary Samuel Langley attempted a manned flight of a motor-powered airplane from a houseboat in the Potomac River. If successful, it would have been the world’s first flying machine.

The flight was a spectacular failure, but for 30 years the Smithsonian recognized Langley's Aerodrome -- and not the Wright Brothers' flyer -- as the world's first manned aircraft capable of flight. Needless to say, Orville and Wilbur were not pleased.

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