Katherine Brodt

Kate, a native of Prince George's County, first became interested in history when her parents bought her a First Ladies coloring book. She's been researching, collecting, and writing interesting stories ever since. She has a BA in History and Art History from Skidmore College, as well as a MA in Early Modern History from King's College London. 

Posts by Katherine Brodt

1898 pen-and-ink drawing of a periodical cicada's life cycle

Brood X in the Eighteenth-Century Headlines

As a historian, seeing the media “buzz” surrounding cicadas makes me wonder how our ancestors reacted to their periodical swarms. Who were the first people to realize what was going on? Did they understand the seventeen-year cycle? Were they afraid, curious, or unbothered? As I suspected, Washington-area locals have been fascinated by Brood X for a very long time. 

Portrait of Margaret Bayard Smith

Margaret Bayard Smith: A Writer of Washington

Anyone who reads The First Forty Years of Washington Society will form an image of Margaret Bayard Smith as a lively social butterfly and busybody. After all, her published letters seem like the nineteenth-century equivalent of a gossip column. What readers may not realize is that, just like her husband, Margaret was an accomplished writer. In nineteenth-century Washington, she was well-known as an author in her own right, not just a socialite.

View of Asbury United Methodist Church

Eli Nugent's Asbury Chapel

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. 

The title page of a nineteenth century book of ballads containing "the Ballad of Chevy Chase"

What's in a Name? Chevy Chase

Though most Americans (and Google) associate the name with Cornelius “Chevy” Chase, the actor of National Lampoon fame, those of us in the D.C. area know that Chevy Chase, Maryland had it first. Rumor has it, though, that the man and the town actually get their names from the same place: an English ballad that’s at least 500 years old.

View of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial from the White House, covered in snow

The "White Christmas" of 1962

If a white Christmas is what you want, D.C. might not be the best place for you. The area has only seen a handful of snowy holidays. But the most impressive came in 1962, when a record-setting 5 inches fell on December 25. To date, it's still the most snowfall recorded on Christmas Day in Washington.

View of the Smithsonian Castle building

What's in a Name? The Smithsonian

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?

Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln behind her

The Legends of Lincoln's Ghost

It makes sense that, of all the ghosts in Washington, Lincoln is the most famous. He’s one of the most noteworthy Presidents, certainly. He lived in the city during a time of great conflict and suffering. He endured his own personal tragedies during his time in office. His family dabbled in the paranormal fads of the day. And, of course, he was shot at Ford’s Theatre, later dying in a makeshift deathbed across the street. The majority of the nation mourned, feeling a collective bereavement that has never quite healed. Altogether, it’s the perfect recipe for an ongoing ghost story.

The Congressional Cemetery: Forgotten and Found

View of the Congressional Cemetery in the 1930s

In the 1970s, the Congressional Cemetery was in trouble. After years of neglect, it looked abandoned: broken headstones littered the ground, family vaults caved in, and the grass was waist high. Fifty years later, the cemetery has undergone a stunning transformation. As well as being an active burial ground, it serves as a community garden, urban wildlife sanctuary, place of remembrance, and historic site. Volunteers, many from the local Capitol Hill neighborhoods, work tirelessly to keep up the grounds and reverse the damage of decades past. Because, as it turns out, the Congressional Cemetery has always been a people’s effort. Despite its official-sounding name, and despite its importance to national history, its story is much more local.

Early map of DC showing the diagonal avenues named for states

What's in a Name? The State Avenues

There are fifty-one streets in D.C. named for every state and Puerto Rico. But, admittedly, not all state avenues are created equal. Some are long, vital roadways through our city. Others are historic and prominent—the location of our country’s most important events. And some are…well, a bit hard to find. Admit it: you probably couldn’t point to all of them on a city map. So why are some state avenues more prominent than others? Is there any method to the naming madness?

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