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

"Belair at Bowie": Segregated Suburbia

Karl Gregory tries to buy a home in Belair at Bowie

By 1963, “Belair at Bowie” was thriving. Since its opening in 1961, over 2000 houes had been occupied. But its prosperity hid an uncomfortable truth. William Levitt’s vision of the perfect neighborhood included attractive homes, affordable prices, comfort, and community—but only one type of neighbor. From the moment Levitt arrived in Washington, local activists—and even the government—became aware of the developer’s racist policy: none of the homes in Belair could be sold to people of color.  

D.C. Museums from Home

Interior of the Phillips Collection gallery

For the time being, Washingtonians have been cut off from our favorite museums. Luckily, brilliant museum professionals have come up with lots of ways to bring some light to our lockdowns. In honor of Museum Week, we've rounded up some of the coolest online resources that D.C. museums have to offer.

Portrait of Alexander Gardner with a camera, taken around 1860

A Tale of Two Photographers: Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner

If you lived in nineteenth-century D.C. and wanted your picture taken, you couldn’t just whip out your own camera—you’d visit Pennsylvania Avenue NW, known locally as “photographer’s row.” This stretch of the avenue, between the White House and the nearly-finished Capitol building, was home to a cluster of photography studios and galleries. Between 1858 and 1881, the most fashionable and famous was Brady’s National Photographic Art Gallery. It was run by Mathew Brady and his manager, Alexander Gardner, whose partnership endured its own civil war. 

Dolley Madison in 1848, seated at a table

Dolley Madison, the Queen of Washington

Today she is widely remembered for her heroism during the War of 1812, when she saved a portrait of George Washington from being taken and burned by British invaders. But during her lifetime, Dolley Madison was best known as a prominent socialite, hostess, and politician in her own right—one of the country’s first celebrity personalities. 

Portrait of Josiah Henson, 1876

"Not Fiction, but Fact": Josiah Henson and the Real Uncle Tom's Cabin

Josiah Henson is not a well-known name in American history—or even in the Washington area, where he was enslaved for many years. Born into bondage in Maryland, he lived in Montgomery County before eventually escaping to Canada—there, he served in the army, became a preacher, and established a prosperous settlement for escaped slaves. He was immortalized in Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, serving as the inspiration for the titular character. But though the novel made him a well-known and popular figure in the nineteenth century, Henson was determined to tell his own story. As he says, the truth is stranger than fiction. 

William Porter and Helen Leavitt sit on the back of a stagecoach, showing a banner that reads, "Taxation Without Representation."

In Washington, "Taxation Without Representation" is History

Most Americans are familiar with the phrase, of course. It brings to mind images of the Revolutionary War—colonists protesting a series of taxes imposed on them by the British Parliament, despite their lack of involvement in its affairs. According to tradition, the battle cry of “taxation without representation is tyranny” originated in Boston, where it featured in such famous displays as the Boston Tea Party.  In the popular imagination, the phrase defined the conflict that lead to the creation of our own, more just government. So how did the phrase come to be associated with Washington, D.C., the center of that government?

Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci

"New Girl in Town": Washington Gets a Leonardo

On a cold night in January 1967, a plane landed quietly at National Airport. No one could know where it came from and what it carried. in fact, the only indication of the plane's arrival came through a coded message, sent by the FBI agents on board: "the Bird" had landed. Despite all this, though, the only thing that came off the plane was a perfectly ordinary, plain grey American Tourister suitcase. No one suspected anything.

However, rumors circulated. Two weeks later, the New York Times broke the news that Washington's National Gallery of Art had landed the art deal of the century: the purchase of a painting by one of the most famous artists in the world, Leonardo da Vinci.