Richard Brownell

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Richard Brownell is the author of numerous books for young audiences on historical and cultural topics. He also writes political commentary and has had his stage plays produced in several cities around the country. He currently resides in New York City, but his home is wherever history has been made. Richard has been an avid reader, researcher, and writer of American history much of his life, and he is always sure to soak up historical sites and stories wherever his travels take him.

Posts by Richard Brownell

Grace Slick (Source: Wikipedia)

That Time Grace Slick Tried to Slip LSD to President Nixon

Nixon, a career politician known for his rather stilted mannerisms and stoic demeanor, was seen as humorless and uncaring by the counterculture. As a result, he was the butt of many jokes. Some of the nation’s counterculture writers and artists mused what it would be like if Nixon ever took LSD. Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick took it upon herself to find out when Nixon's daughter, Tricia, invited her to a tea party at the White House in 1970.

1835 map showing Alexandria as part of original District of Columbia. (Source: Library of Congress)

The Alexandria Retrocession of 1846

We have the states of Maryland and Virginia to thank for the land that created Washington, D.C. It was through their cession of territory — 69 square miles from Maryland and 31 square miles from Virginia — that Congress was able to establish a permanent home for a federal government on the banks of the Potomac River in 1801. However, almost from day one, Virginia was looking for a way to get its land back. Four decades later, it finally did.

Baltimore & Pennsylvania Railroad station. (Source: National Gallery of Art archives)

The Short-Lived Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Station on the National Mall

It may be hard to picture now, but the National Mall was once home to a lot of commercial and industrial development. Perhaps the most notable — if also maligned — site was a railroad station belonging to the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad. The station itself embraced a Gothic architectural style, but the train shed that extended from the station was considered an eyesore. It proved to be one (of many) motivations behind the 1901 McMillan plan to beautify and renovate America's front yard.

Lobbying at the Willard Hotel

Willard Hotel lobby in 1901 (Photo source: Library of Congress)

Washington, D.C. is a city rich in history with many stories to tell. Inevitably some of those stories take on a life of their own, even if the facts don’t necessarily back them up. For example, the story that the term “lobbyist” was created by President Ulysses S. Grant to describe the flocks of favor-seekers he encountered during his frequent sojourns to the lobby of the Willard Hotel.

Before the Bonus Marchers There was Coxey’s Army

Jacob Coxey (Source: Library of Congress via Encycolopeia Britannica Kids)

You might be familiar with the story of the Bonus Marchers of 1932, the large group of World War I veterans who gathered from around the country in Washington, D.C., demanding their long promised benefits. For many veterans, the bonus money for military service was the difference between keeping a roof over their families’ heads or keeping the bank from repossessing their property. But this was not the first time disgruntled citizens descended on Washington seeking economic redress.

In the midst of an economic crisis that shook the nation in the mid 1890s, Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey, and his eccentric colleague Carl Browne organized a collection of unemployed men and women to march to Washington to present their plan. They left Massillon, Ohio on March 25, arriving in Washington, D.C. at the end of April. Along the way, they were joined by dozens of similarly affected men and women eager to find a solution to their economic plight.

The welcome they received was far from warm.

Film poster for Being There (Source: Filmsite.org)

Oscar Winning Films of Washington, D.C.: Being There

The 1979 film “Being There,” directed by Hal Ashby from the acclaimed novel by Jerzy Kosinski, was a light-hearted comic observation of politics and celebrity in America. Set in and around Washington, D.C., this Oscar gem is a time capsule of some Capital locales that might not be readily recognizable 27 years after they were filmed.

Henry Shrady: The Man Who Gave His Life for U.S. Grant’s Memorial

U.S. Grant Memorial Equestrian Statue

When sculptor Henry Merwin Shrady, along with architect Edward Pearce Casey, won the commission to design the Capitol's Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in 1902, neither man was quite aware of the scope of the project with which they were getting involved. The monument had first been proposed in 1895 by the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, which wanted a grand way to honor the general who led the Union Army to victory during the Civil War. Shrady threw himself into the project that would consume his life — literally — over the next 20 years.

Oscar Winning Films of Washington, D.C.: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington movie poster

When people think of movies and Washington, D.C., the first film that often comes to mind is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The 1939 drama starring Jimmy Stewart as a country boy who gets a quick lesson in dirty D.C. politics is now considered an American classic. At the time of its release, however, “Mr. Smith” didn’t have many fans in the nation’s capital.

Movie poster for All The President's Men

Oscar Winning Films of Washington, D.C.: All the President's Men

The film version of the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein book All the President’s Men had blockbuster written all over it when it was released on April 9, 1976. The book was already an international bestseller and had won its authors the Pulitzer Prize. And the filmmakers assembled to bring the book to the screen read like a who’s who of top Hollywood talent. Throughout the hubbub, editors at The Washington Post were in an awkward position.

Frederick Douglass's Career in D.C. Government

Frederick Douglass photo

Frederick Douglass spent time in Washington, D.C. during his career as an abolitionist, writer, and orator, but he was never a permanent resident. His presence prior to and during the Civil War was most notable as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln during the debate over constitutional amendments to guarantee voting rights and civil liberties for African Americans.

It wasn’t until his Rochester, N.Y. home was destroyed by fire in 1872 that Douglass took up permanent residence in the District. Relocating to Washington seemed a logical choice since he was already spending an increasing amount of time there.

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