washington dc history

Hey, here’s a picture of Stockholm, Sweden, around the turn of the 20th century, when the developed world looked more or less like it had been conquered by metal tarantulas.

As the city tried to keep up with the new telephone craze, its communications tower wound up having 5000 telephone and telegraph lines bursting out of it. New York City in 1887 had a similar issue, making the whole city look like it was preparing for a dragon attack.

Besides giving pigeons an entirely new canvas to paint white, the forward-thinking people of the past also didn’t account for another calamity that could befall any city tying all its buildings together like a giant shoelace prank: extreme weather. Boston experienced a rare January hurricane in 1881, which brought down nearly all of those wires and made the famous architecture of the town look like it had been visited by drunk Spider-Man.

8 Unbelievably WTF Photos Of Famous Places In The Past‬

On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. Despite his humble beginnings and lack of formal education, Lincoln distinguished himself as an honest leader and a powerful speaker. Leading the nation through the Civil War, our 16th President fought for unity and helped bring an end to slavery in our country. Modeled after the Parthenon in Greece (the birthplace of democracy), the Lincoln Memorial honors his legacy. It’s a towering icon on the Washington, D.C., landscape that attracts visitors from all over the world to be inspired by Lincoln’s words and accomplishments. Photo courtesy of Drew Geraci.

View of attendees at the opening night of the Masonic May Festival in Washington, D.C., May 23, 1906. By the George R. Lawrence Company.

Source: Library of Congress.

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Malcolm and Martin, closer than we ever thought

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was leaving a news conference one afternoon when a tall man with a coppery complexion stepped out of the crowd and blocked his path. Malcolm X, the African-American Muslim leader who once called King “Rev. Dr. Chicken-wing,” extended his hand and smiled.

“Well, Malcolm, good to see you,” King said after taking Malcolm X’s hand.

“Good to see you,” Malcolm X replied as both men broke into huge grins while a gaggle of photographers snapped pictures of their only meeting.

That encounter on March 26, 1964, lasted only a minute. But a photo of that meeting has tantalized scholars and supporters of both men for more than 45 years.

As the 85th birthday of Malcolm X is marked on Wednesday, history has freeze-framed him as the angry black separatist who saw whites as blue-eyed devils. Yet near the end of his life, Malcolm X was becoming more like King – and King was becoming more like him. “In the last years of their lives, they were starting to move toward one another,” says David Howard-Pitney, who recounted the Capitol Hill meeting in his book “Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s. "While Malcolm is moderating from his earlier position, King is becoming more militant,” Pitney says.

Malcolm X was reaching out to King even before he broke away from the Nation of Islam and embraced Sunni Islam after a pilgrimage to Mecca, says Andrew Young, a member of King’s inner circle at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights group King headed.“Even before his trip to Mecca, Malcolm used to come by the SCLC’s office,” Young says. “Unfortunately, Dr. King was never there when he came." 

He reached out to King and other civil rights leaders. In 1965, Malcolm X traveled to Selma, Alabama, where King was leading a campaign, to offer support. "Brother Malcolm was definitely making an outreach to some civil rights leaders,” says A. Peter Bailey, an original member of the group Malcolm X founded, The Organization of Afro-American Unity, and a friend of Malcolm X. “He believed that the one who would be most responsive would be Dr. King.”

The Muslim leader had developed an appreciation for King, Bailey says.“He had come to believe that King believed in what he was doing,” Bailey says. “He believed in nonviolence; it just wasn’t a show. He developed respect for him. I heard him say you have to give respect to men who put their lives on the line.”

King’s movement toward Malcolm began as he shifted the civil rights movement to the North, friends and scholars say. During the last three years of his life, King became more radical. He talked about eliminating poverty and providing a guaranteed annual income for all U.S. citizens. He came out against the Vietnam War, and said American society would have to be restructured.He also veered into Malcolm X’s rhetorical territory when he started preaching black self-pride, says Pitney.

“King is photographed a number of times in 1967 and ‘68 wearing a 'Black is Beautiful’ button,’ ” Pitney says.

A year before King died, the journalist David Halberstam even told him he “sounded like a nonviolent Malcolm X,” Pitney says.

In the epic PBS civil rights series, Coretta Scott King, the civil rights leader’s widow, said King never took Malcolm X’s biting criticisms of his nonviolence stance personally. “I know Martin had the greatest respect for Malcolm …,” she said. “I think that if Malcolm had lived, at some point the two would have come closer together and would have been a very strong force.”

(via CNN)

Kilroy Was Here!

He’s engraved in stone in the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC – back in a small alcove where very few people have seen it. For the WWII generation, this will bring back memories. For younger folks, it’s a bit of trivia that is an intrinsic part of American history and legend.

Anyone born between 1913 to about 1950, is very familiar with Kilroy. No one knew why he was so well known….but everybody seemed to get into it. It was the fad of its time!

          At the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC

So who was Kilroy?

In 1946 the American Transit Association, through its radio program, “Speak to America,” sponsored a nationwide contest to find the real Kilroy….now a larger-than-life legend of just-ended World War II….offering a prize of a real trolley car to the person who could prove himself to be the genuine article.

Almost 40 men stepped forward to make that claim, but only James Kilroy from Halifax, Massachusetts, had credible and verifiable evidence of his identity.

“Kilroy” was a 46-year old shipyard worker during World War II (1941-1945) who worked as a quality assurance checker at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts (a major shipbuilder for the United States Navy for a century until the 1980s).  

His job was to go around and check on the number of rivets completed. (Rivets held ships together before the advent of modern welding techniques.) Riveters were on piece work wages….so they got paid by the rivet. He would count a block of rivets and put a check mark in semi-waxed lumber chalk (similar to crayon), so the rivets wouldn’t be counted more than once.

                                     A warship hull with rivets

When Kilroy went off duty, the riveters would surreptitiously erase the mark. Later, an off-shift inspector would come through and count the rivets a second time, resulting in double pay for the riveters!

One day Kilroy’s boss called him into his office. The foreman was upset about unusually high wages being “earned” by riveters, and asked him to investigate. It was then he realized what had been going on. 

The tight spaces he had to crawl in to check the rivets didn’t lend themselves to lugging around a paint can and brush, so Kilroy decided to stick with the waxy chalk. He continued to put his check mark on each job he inspected, but added KILROY WAS HERE! in king-sized letters next to the check….and eventually added the sketch of the guy with the long nose peering over the fence….and that became part of the Kilroy message.

   Kilroy’s original shipyard inspection “trademark” during World War II

Once he did that, the riveters stopped trying to wipe away his marks.

Ordinarily the rivets and chalk marks would have been covered up with paint. With World War II on in full swing, however, ships were leaving the Quincy Yard so fast that there wasn’t time to paint them. As a result, Kilroy’s inspection "trademark” was seen by thousands of servicemen who boarded the troopships the yard produced.

His message apparently rang a bell with the servicemen, because they picked it up and spread it all over the European and the Pacific war zones.

Before war’s end, “Kilroy” had been here, there, and everywhere on the long hauls to Berlin and Tokyo. 

To the troops outbound in those ships, however, he was a complete mystery; all they knew for sure was that someone named Kilroy had “been there first.” As a joke, U.S. servicemen began placing the graffiti wherever they landed, claiming it was already there when they arrived.

As the World War II wore on, the legend grew. Underwater demolition teams routinely sneaked ashore on Japanese-held islands in the Pacific to map the terrain for coming invasions by U.S. troops (and thus, presumably, were the first GI’s there). On one occasion, however, they reported seeing enemy troops painting over the Kilroy logo!

Kilroy became the U.S. super-GI who had always “already been” wherever GIs went. It became a challenge to place the logo in the most unlikely places imaginable. (It is said to now be atop Mt. Everest, the Statue of Liberty, the underside of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and even scrawled in the dust on the moon by the American astronauts who walked there between 1969 and 1972.

In 1945, as World War II was ending, an outhouse was built for the exclusive use of Allied leaders Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill at the Potsdam Conference. It’s first occupant was Stalin, who emerged and asked his aide (in Russian), “Who is Kilroy?”

To help prove his authenticity in 1946, James Kilroy brought along officials from the shipyard and some of the riveters. He won the trolley car….which he attached to the Kilroy home and used to provide living quarters for six of the family’s nine children….thereby solving what had become an acute housing crisis for the Kilroys.

                     The new addition to the Kilroy family home.

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And the tradition continues into the 21st century…

In 2011 outside the now-late-Osama Bin Laden’s hideaway house in Abbottabad, Pakistan….shortly after the al-Qaida-terrorist was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs

>>Note: The Kilroy graffiti on the southwest wall of the Bin Laden compound pictured above was real (not digitally altered with Microsoft Paint, as postulated by some). The entire compound was leveled in 2012 for redevelopment by a Pakistani company as an amusement park….and to avoid it becoming a shrine to Bin Laden’s nefarious memory.

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A personal note….

My Dad’s trademark signature on cards, letters and notes to my sisters and I for the first 50 or so years of our lives (until we lost him to cancer) was to add the image of “Kilroy" at the end. We kids never ceased to get a thrill out of this….even as we evolved into adulthood. 

To this day, the “Kilroy” image brings back a vivid image of my awesome Dad into my head….and my heart!

Dad: This one’s for you!

View of the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., c. 1800′s.

Source: New York Public Library.