How did Silver Spring, Maryland land one of the prettiest, most mystical-sounding names in the Washington, D.C. area? Was there really a magical silver spring that once flowed through the area? Is it as pretty and idyllic as it sounds? Actually, that's exactly where the name comes from: a "silver spring."
When Reverend Eli Nugent witnessed the silencing and segregation of fellow Black worshippers at a D.C. church, he decided that his community would be better off worshipping somewhere else. His efforts created one of the first and oldest Black churches in the city: Asbury United Methodist.
He never traveled to the United States or took an interest in our politics. He wasn’t known for any philanthropic efforts. Though intellectually curious, he didn’t make any groundbreaking or well-known scientific discoveries—and didn’t patronize people who did. Yet, surprisingly, he left his estate to the United States, asking that we use it to promote scientific research and education. Of all people, how did an English scientist's name come to be such a staple of Washington culture?
When the stresses of life in Washington became too much, John Quincy Adams calmed his nerves by taking early-morning swims in the Potomac River. In a move that might be considered questionable by today’s standards, he especially liked to soak in the brisk, cold water wearing nothing but his own skin. According to local lore, it once got him into a bit of trouble: Anne Royall, a trailblazing journalist, caught him in a very awkward situation. But is there any truth in the tale?
American commerce and invention suffered a terrible blow on December 15, 1836, when the U.S. Patent Office caught fire. The office, which was located in Blodget’s Hotel on E Street NW between 7th and 8th Streets, shared its space with the U.S. Post Office and a branch of the local fire department, of all things. Unfortunately, that volunteer fire department had disbanded and the only way to fight the flames was a bucket brigade. When the fire was finally doused, America lost an estimated 7,000 models and 9,000 drawings of pending and patented inventions.
You’d better believe there have been "mean girls" since the beginning of time, or at least the early 1800s. Rigid social structures dictated the behavior of Jacksonian high society; it was the height of rudeness, for instance, if a lady did not return your call. However, in a social war that engulfed the beginning of Andrew Jackson’s presidency, society’s rules were discarded and the national government ground to a halt all for one woman: the beautiful and intelligent Margaret “Peggy” O’Neil.
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.