Emily Robinson

Emily Robinson, a Massachusetts native, comes to Boundary Stones by way of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA where she studied Media & Communication and Political Science. A lifelong history fanatic (with a Ben Franklin action figure to prove it), Emily has spent the last several years working on a collaborative archival project with the historic Allentown Band, promoting its history through various forms of digital storytelling— a medium with which Emily has been mesmerized since an elementary school project on Jim Henson, a D.C. native himself. When she's not blogging at WETA, Emily can be found photographing D.C. architecture and obsessing over any and all music.

Posts by Emily Robinson

A General, a Queen, and the President

Tom Thumb, -1883, with wife in wedding costume., 1863. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2005685454/.

February of 1863 saw one of the most anticipated celebrity weddings of its time—after all, what better to provide a momentary distraction from the realities of the Civil War than a little star gossip? The bride and groom were General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) and the Queen of Beauty Lavinia Warren, of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum (which would later become Barnum’s Circus) in New York City. At 12:30 p.m. on February 10, 1863 in Manhattan’s Grace Episcopal Church, Tom and Lavinia wed in the presence of an enormous crowd, which spilled out onto Broadway and for many more miles into the City, thanks to Barnum’s extensive publicizing of the event. People across America were fascinated by Barnum’s Tom Thumb and the President of the United States was no exception. The Lincolns were so enthralled by Barnum’s acts that they invited the newlywed Strattons to the White House for a wedding reception just a few days later.

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.

Dolley Madison and The Mercury 7

“The Mercury 7 astronauts (left to right) Slayton, Shepard, Schirra, Grissom, Glenn, Cooper, and Carpenter all raise their hands in reply to a question about whether they felt confident they would return from space – Glenn raised both hands,” 1959 (Photo Source: NASA) https://www.nasa.gov/feature/60-years-ago-nasa-introduces-mercury-7-astronauts

On April 9, 1959, the year-old National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) held a press conference to introduce the first ever American astronauts to the world. The seven military test pilots chosen to make up “The Mercury 7” sat lined at a table in the ballroom of the first NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., as press and public looked on. Although the introduction of astronauts into American culture was historic in itself, the building in which it took place carried a legacy that predated NASA by nearly 140 years. Namely, the building that NASA acquired as its first residence in the District was the longtime home of the lively and revered first lady, Dolley Madison.

Goddard Signals Apollo 11 Success

“NASA Goddard on Twitter: ‘1961: The Manned Space Flight Network Control Center Was Established at Goddard in July 1961 to Provide Communications Support for Astronauts on the Mercury and Apollo Missions.… Https://T.Co/QxK429nBfu.’” n.d. Accessed June 17, 2019. https://twitter.com/nasagoddard/status/1046843793536897024.

When Neil Armstrong announced that man had successfully landed on the moon’s surface July 20, 1969, he addressed his message to mission control, based at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. While Armstrong’s first word may have been “Houston,” those at mission control in Texas were not actually the first ones to hear this historic message from space. Rather, the first people to hear of man landing on the moon, were NASA personnel at the Goddard Space Center, just 12 miles from D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland. Goddard served as the main control center for receiving and directing signals and information between the manned Apollo 11 spacecraft and mission control in Houston. In fact, much of the technical success and amazement surrounding the Apollo 11 moon landing was thanks to the hard work of the scientists and engineers in Greenbelt.

When Autumn in D.C. Felt Like an Appalachian Spring

The Martha Graham Dance Company performs “Appalachian Spring” on the stage of the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on Oct. 30, 1944. The Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Collection, Music Division. https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2014/10/documenting-dance-the-making-of-appalachian-spring/

On the evening of October 30, 1944, hundreds of people filled the seats of the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library of Congress for the 10th  annual festival of chamber music. In the last performance of the night, the audience was transported to rural, 1800’s Pennsylvania through Aaron Copland’s musical masterpiece, Appalachian Spring. The ballet, featuring choreography by renowned American dancer, Martha Graham, enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive premiere that night, and became the most well-known piece of music commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge—the “patron saint of American music.”

In the White House When the Eagle Landed

President Nixon - Welcome - Apollo XI Astronauts - USS Hornet” (Photo Credit: NASA/JSC) https://moon.nasa.gov/resources/195/president-nixon-welcome-apollo-xi-astronauts-uss-hornet/

Approximately 530 million Americans across the country, including those in the White House, sat glued to their television sets on the evening of July 20, 1969, watching as Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. It may have been President John F. Kennedy who jumpstarted the space program in 1961, but it was Richard Nixon sitting in the Oval Office the day that JFK’s promise of putting a man on the moon became a reality. It was also Nixon who would mark the occassion by making the longest distance phone call in history that night, as he picked up the Oval Office phone and dialed Space.

The Washington Post Celebrates Young Authors With One of the Most Famous Pieces of Music in History

Sousa, John Philip. Washington Post. Harry Coleman, Philadelphia, 1889. Notated Music. https://www.loc.gov/item/sousa.200028287/.

On a beautiful June day in 1889, 25,000 people covered nearly six acres of the Smithsonian grounds for a glorious awards ceremony. 22,000 of them were children, who ranged in age from toddlers to high schoolers, and were the first members of the new Washington Post Amateur Authors’ Association, which was started by the newspaper to encourage students to excel in English composition. The incentive to join the Association? The opportunity to enter the essay writing competition for the chance to win a stunning solid gold medal. 

Although it might seem like these handsome gold medals would be the main highlight of this event, the jewelry actually wasn’t the only gem to come out of the ceremony…Those present at the Smithsonian grounds that day were also witnesses to the premiere of what would become one of the most famous pieces of music in history: "The Washington Post March."

The Library of Congress: An Overdue Opening

“Students in the Reading Room of the Library of Congress with the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, watching” (Photo Source: Library of Congress) Johnston, Frances Benjamin, photographer. Students in the Reading Room of the Library of Congress with the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, watching. Washington D.C, 1899. [?] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/98502945/.

November 1, 1897 was a cold, rainy Monday in the District. “This may not have been propitious weather for some occasions, but it was hailed with delight by a certain class of persons when they arose that morning. They were not human ducks, either, for the affair in which they wished to participate was sufficient evidence that they were intensely human, and of an intellectual type.” This was the day that the new Congressional Library was to open, and allow eager readers into the Beaux-Arts style building for the first time.

A King at Mount Vernon

“Close up of President Roosevelt and King George VI as they drive from Union Station to the White House. June 8, 1939.” (Photo Source: FDR Presidential Library & Museum Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdrlibrary/7366008204/in/album-72157630051202255/

On June 8, 1939, a royal train rolled into Track 20 at Union Station. The station had been cleaned and shined, the columns lining the track had a fresh coat of green and white paint, and a blue carpet was rolled out from the platform to the newly redecorated station reception room. The visitors arriving in Washington that day were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who made unprecedented history by becoming the first reigning British monarchs to ever set foot on American soil. Of the various activities that the King took part in during his stay, the irony of his visit to Mount Vernon was, quite possibly, the most intriguing.

Chuting Books to the Congressional Library

“Washington D.C., Library of Congress 1897-1910.” (Photo Source: Library of Congress) Detroit Publishing Co., Copyright Claimant, and Publisher Detroit Publishing Co. Washington, D.C., Library of Congress. District of Columbia United States, Washington D.C, None. [Between 1897 and 1910] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/

By 1875, the old Congressional Library had completely exhausted its shelf space, and the Library's new building was not completed until February 1897. Although the 20 year wait for the physical structure was a long one, it seemed that the months between the building’s completion in February 1897 and its opening day on November 1, 1897 were the longest of all. Throughout these nine months, librarians and engineers joined together to try and solve one major problem: how would they move all of the Library’s contents the quarter of a mile distance from the Capitol to the new library without “loss, damage, and confusion.” The answer? Book chutes.

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