Washington Senators Home Opener, 1936


(LOC Image #LC-H21- C-587 [P&P])

The Senators went on to rack up a 82-71 record for the 1936 season. Let’s hope the Nationals do better than the Senators did in 1936 this year. Play Ball!

Death From Below: Septic Tank Tragedies, 32 Years Apart

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 10.55.48 PM

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, a 5-year-old boy in Dublin, VA was found dead in a septic tank after going missing for several days. The boy’s parents were charged with abuse and neglect in a Pulaski County courthouse.

Washington Post screencap.
Washington Post screencap.

The story bares a striking resemblance to a similar incident at the farthest edge of the DC corridor in Stafford over thirty years ago. Richard Stanley Samperton, a 4-year-old, was found dead in April 1983 after he fell into an open septic tank at a Stafford County trailer park. According to the official report made by sheriff’s deputies, the boy and his friend managed to roll back a large concrete block of a “makeshift plywood lid that had been placed over the tank.” The boy then jumped into the tank “for no obvious reason.” His companion soon called for help and alerted Samperton’s mother of his whereabouts. The manager of the trailer park found a ladder and fished the young boy out, where he was soon revived and sent to nearby Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge.

Unfortunately, it was too late.

Samperton died from the injuries he suffered during the fall into the 4,000-gallon tank at the Widewater Trailer Court. The area is today known as the Widewater Mobile Home Park.

Samperton mother at the site of her son's death (Washington Post screencap)
Samperton mother at the site of her son’s death (Washington Post screencap)

Samperton’s death shocked the quiet trailer community. His obituary in the Washington Post was short and non-descript. His death sparked the Stafford County Board of Supervisors to begin safety inspections of all septic tanks in mobile home parks, even if the county’s director of code compliance admitted that such inspections were outside their jurisdictions. According to then County Administrator Richard Bain, the health department had very little authority to oversee inspections of tanks at mobile home parks. Where then did the authority and responsibility truly rest?

According to one supervisor for the health department, the responsibility fell on the property owner. “If someone were to fall on my steps, I am responsibility and this is the same thing,” he said. Local police continued to investigate the incident.

The property owner of the trailer park quickly denied any responsibility for the accident, citing that county inspectors were cognizant of the issue months before the incident occurred in April. He also suggested that they had replaced with the faulty plywood substitute that caused the death of Samperton:

“As I understand it, the county was very familiar with the situation and came out about one a month and were aware of that situation [. . .] they were there when the old top broke.”

The issue went to the state senate. Virginia Senator John Chichester made a motion for the General Assembly to vote on legislation that would cut the red tape and require inspections of septic tank systems at mobile home parks. No matter what laws were put into action, both parents were brokenhearted at the loss of their son:

“Nobody here now will be with us when we have to sit down with his sister and tell her about what happened to her brother.”

Given the amount of information out there from the Northern Virginia Association of Real Estate, septic tanks are regularly inspected in Virginia by licensed professionals.

Source Information:

Waters, Beth. “Stafford Boy’s Death Spurs Inspection of Septic Tanks at Mobile Home Parks,” The Washington Post, May 4, 1983.

“Child Killed By Fall Into Septic Tank,” The Washington Post, April 16, 1983.

Iwo Jima 40th Anniversary Exhibit at the Cannon House Office Building, 1985

It’s amazing what you can find at work.

When you work for an organization that’s been around since the 1920s, you are bound to come across some really interesting items untouched over the years. We aren’t talking Holy Grail here, but interesting nonetheless. One such item popped up at the office this week:


The edges were well worn and smelled faintly of mildew. Whatever pile of papers and books stacked above it stayed that way for a number of years – Dust marks of a forgotten past once again uncovered under fluorescent light thirty years later.

Looking at the faded poster, I knew I had to find more information about the exhibit. D.C. is home to thousands of art exhibit openings. It is a rare occurrence, however, to hear about one held in Congressional offices.

The Island War
In honor of the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, a short art exhibition was held at the historic Cannon House Office Building in February-March 1985. The exhibit, titled “Island War: Marines in the Pacific,” drew from the collections of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Coast Guard. Shown above is a framed poster promoting the exhibition. It officially opened on 19 February 1985, exactly forty years after the opening of hostilities at Iwo.

Events commemorating the anniversary of Iwo Jima like the Cannon Building exhibit were held around the country in February. Americans took a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of few for the benefit of so many. The majority of participation from veterans was in Washington, D.C. One day before the 40th anniversary of the landings at Iwo, a large ceremony was held at the Washington Cathedral. Over 350 combat veterans of the battle were present. A ceremonial wreathe laying at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington and a meeting of veterans with President Reagan on the anniversary date rounded out the Capitol’s main commemorative efforts.

There was no mention of the exhibit opening  in the long Washington Post article covering the Cathedral event and wreath laying. Only two short mentions in the “Museum and Galleries” section of the Post have the exhibit listed during the exhibit’s run in February and March 1985.

Marines in Cannon

Cannon House Office Building (LOC Image #LC-H824-T-1144-004)
Cannon House Office Building (LOC Image #LC-H824-T-1144-004)

Located at the intersection of First Street and New Jersey Avenue, SE DC (bounded by First and C Streets), the Cannon House Office Building is a historic piece of architecture within the United States Capitol Complex, complete with elegant Beaux-Arts architecture and coffered dome. The Cannon building was the first set of Congressional offices outside the U.S. Capitol. Completed in 1908, the building is named for former Republican Speaker of the House and outspoken Woodrow Wilson critic Joseph Gurney Cannon. The USMC Museums Branch responsible for coordinating the exhibit displayed the artwork around the building’s picturesque rotunda.

According to an article about the exhibit written by Colonel Brooke Nihart in Fortitudine, the Congressional Marines Breakfast viewed the exhibit opening on the morning of 19 February, composed of former Marines now working on Capitol Hill in various capacities from Senators to Capitol Police (breakfast meetings are still a regular occurrence today). In the evening, the DC Council of the Navy League held a small reception in the Cannon Building.

Instructions to a Patrol by Capt Donald L. Dickson, USMCR.USMC Combat Art Collection
Instructions to a Patrol by Capt Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. USMC Combat Art Collection

Unfortunately, “there was too little art done of that battle to mount a full scale show,” said Nihart. Marine participation in battles from Guadalcanal to Okinawa filled gaps in the historical timeline around the rotunda’s Corinthian columns. All in all, twelve Marine combat artists were represented in the exhibit.

Screencap from Fortitudine Magazine, 1985.
Screencap from Fortitudine Magazine, 1985.

Col. Nihart’s summary of the exhibit is brief and heartfelt. He called the engagement at Iwo “the toughest nut to crack” of any theater during World War II. Few would disagree. By the end of the 36-day battle, over 6,000 men were dead, including one Navy Escort Carrier sunk by kamikazes. Nihart knew well about the combat stress and fatigue shown in each painting. Colonel Nihart himself was a World War II and Korean War veteran who fought at Wake Island and Okinawa as a gunnery officer aboard USS Saratoga.

Nihart also remarked on the need for such an anniversary. Such an event seems odd, so close to the 50th in 1995. Why not wait for ten more years? Nihart noted that in ten years, he would “see only about half of today’s number.” Most of the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima were well into their sixties by the mid 1980s. Today, only a handful is still alive. Let’s hope their memory never remains as faded and weighted down as the poster I found on a short art exhibit inside the Capitol thirty years ago.

To all the men who fought and died on the sands of Iwo: Semper Fi.

Source Information

McCombs, Phil. “From the Sands of Iwo Jima.” The Washington Post, February 19, 1985.

Nihart, Brooke. “Center Aids Observances of Iwo Jima 40th Anniversary.” Fortitudine 14, no. 3 (Winter 1984-1985): 10-12.

Schudel, Matt. “Marine Col. F. Brooke Nihart; Wrote Military Code of Conduct,” The Washington Post, September 30, 2006.


Past and Present: Latrobe Gate, Washington Navy Yard

If you are driving down 8th street near the Eastern Market and Barracks Row neighborhood of SE DC, you reach a dead end at its intersection with M street, one of the city’s main transportation arteries. Directly forward of that intersection is the Latrobe Gate at the Washington Navy Yard, one of the most historic pieces of architecture in the city. The gated structure is named after its designer, architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Latrobe is most famous for conceptualizing the United States Capitol.

The Navy Yard itself inside the walls of the gate is a shell of its former self. Originally built in 1799 Much of the land in the 19th and 20th centuries swallowed by gentrified industry, corporations, and of course, baseball. It is Latrobe Gate that stands firm as a testament to the city’s stunning classic/Greek revival design.

The gate was designed by Latrobe in 1804 and constructed two years later. The double gateway is connected north and south by facades built four feet apart and connected by a double colonnade and hipped roof. The detail and craftsmanship is still stunning today, even with its long history of alterations beginning in 1823. It is one of the few structures to survive the burning of the Washington Navy Yard by the British in 1814.

Although the gate originally served as the Navy Yard’s main/ceremonial entrance, it now takes someone of an upper echelon flag rank to pass through it. If you think you will be able to walk through this piece of District history unmolested, think again. You are Balrog and the gate is Gandolf (No passing). Live with it. Admire it from afar or up close – just don’t try to walk through it.

The original gate stood as a one-story structure. It was later incorporated into a three-story late Victorian building in 1881 to house U.S. Marines. That structure forms the view still visible today by the general public and Navy Yard civilians and military. The gate made the Nation Register of Historic Places list in 1973.

Thankfully, I get to see this beautiful piece of architecture every day. I work inside the Navy Yard, just a football field away from the gate at the corner of Leutze Park and 8th Street. I took a second at work today to snap a photo from the inside of the Navy Yard looking out to M Street – the side many do not get to see. Looking at some of the images through time at the Library of Congress, it is surprising how little has changed. A few AC units here and there were placed on and subsequently taken off the Victorian building above the gate, along with several stylistic changes to the Marine guardhouse. According to a 2001 article in the New York Daily News, the guardhouse at Latrobe Gate is the oldest continuously manned Marine guardhouse in the U.S. Working at a place where so much has changed over the past couple of years, it’s comforting to know Mr. Latrobe’s work remains a pivotal piece of DC history.

Here are a few images of Latrobe Gate from the inside looking out:

Circa 1942 (U.S. Navy Photo NH# 91836)
Circa 1942 (U.S. Navy Photo NH# 91836)
Source: LOC Image # HABS DC,WASH,74--2)
1965 HABS Study (Source: LOC Image # HABS DC,WASH,74–2)
Marines at Gate, 1978 (NHHC Photo # KN-27599)
Marines at Gate, 1978 (NHHC Photo # KN-27599)
(Photo by Author, 12 MAR 2015)
(Photo by Author, 12 MAR 2015)

Source Information:

DeFrank, Thomas M. “Nation’s Fortresses Now Even Mightier.” New York Daily News, October 31, 2001.

Naval History and Heritage Command, “Latrobe Gate.” Accessed 12 MARCH 2015.

Throwing Shade in 1928: A Feminist Takes on Haters

“Since I was a child and my mother first taught me to love women, I have pondered over their needs, capacities and aspirations. As I grew older I added to my musings some study and observation.”                                                                                                                    –  Preface, What Women Want

It’s easy for us to overlook today’s modern conveniences, even when it comes to voicing our disapproval. The Internet offers a fast and open forum for anyone to chide and admonish anything they want. More often than not, our reliance on the “Yelp Effect” is both a blessing and a curse – a life and prosperity, death and destruction bargain we’ve set out against ourselves in biblical fashion. Forgive us, Lord, for we have sinned with syntax errors.

Eighty years ago, the only way you could voice your opinion to the wider world outside of your home or office was through the newspaper. No edit button or page refresh. No Internet. No television pundits. Deep down, it was just pure old-fashioned trash talk in black and white – perhaps the purest kind.

(Source: Stagebeauty.net)
(Source: Stagebeauty.net)

One such incident occurred in February 1928 over a ten-minute Washington area radio broadcast. The program from well-known Feminist and actress Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale stirred a series of heated letters published in the Washington Post between supporters and naysayers over a period of several weeks.

The short talk by Ms. Hale came less than a decade after Women’s Suffrage. A woman’s place in society was elevated throughout the 1920s, both in attitude and in practice. To some, the concept was relatively fresh and untested. For her, it was a matter of principle. Her most popular work, What Women Want: An Interpretation of the Feminist Movement (1914), is a well-written treatise on the state of women in America. In the fourteen years between the publication of What Women Want and the 1928 news broadcast, Ms. Hale became an outspoken supporter for feminism and the family.

(Source: Archive.org)
(Source: Archive.org)

Ms. Forbes-Robertson Hale came on the air at 7:50pm for a brief segment called “Compassionate Marriage,” sandwiched between the Kitt Hour of Music and the W.B. & A. Quartet on WRC Radio (now ESPN’s 980 Sports Talk Radio). Although the exact details of her brief talk are not available, one can surmise the subject matter was a direct smack to Companionate Marriage, a 1927 book written by Colorado judge and social reformer Ben Lindsey. Companionate Marriage argued for couples to undergo a one-year trial marriage with the promise of no children in order to decide if they are compatible enough for married life. The book became a major motion picture featuring silent film starlet Betty Bronson in 1928.

Ms. Hale’s arguments against companionate marriage were short. Public response in the wake of the broadcast was a different story.

The Saturday edition of the Washington Post published three days later included a special section on the broadcast called “Radio Obscenity.” Two letters to the editor were chosen for publication. The first from “J.G. Alcorn” called for a stop to the type of “obscene talks” given by the feminist author and activist. The offended went on to demand the Radio Commission to censor such “filth” from the airwaves.

(Source: Washington Post)
(Source: Washington Post)

The second letter from an individual simply known as “H.L.W.” titled their entry “A Vile Radio Talk.” The author echoed similar sentiments of disgust. H.L.W., however, chose to go a bit further. The author penned a short tirade on what they felt was the true intention of marriage. It was not a defense of companionate marriage or the ideas of Judge Lindsey. The venomous prose that follows was directed to Ms. Hale’s personal feelings of matrimony:

“If we should follow the suggestions of this Englishwoman who spoke last night, every male will become a gorilla and every home will become a house of prostitution for children-as well as for grown ups. There will be no chastity in the home, and America will become the mecca of all the lewd and outcast people of Europe.”

The author dug deeper into their own blatant xenophobia, adding that such talk by Ms. Hale would make America “a nation of dope fiends and libertines.”

One week later, a concerned citizen came defended Hale’s short speech in another letter to the editor to the Post. Mrs. Clara Sidney Wiseman rebuked the two previous letter authors by name. She indicated “Alcorn” to be a male. In her letter, Wiseman defended the actions of Mrs. Hale and that of WRC for airing it. She admonished those who would rally against it, and called most of them hypocrites “living in darkness:”

(Source: Washington Post)
(Source: Washington Post)

She hailed the broadcast as “brilliantly and sincerely spoken and delivered in the simplest language.” Compassionate marriage was a right and a privilege in Progressive Era America. Women like Ms. Hale and Mrs. Wiseman simply wanted the world to see their point of view. She ended her defense by asking newspapers to publish her address in “civilized newspapers around the world,” thus implying the real brutes in question were conservatives of the old guard.

As smart as she was beautiful, Ms. Hale also weighed in on the matter in yet another letter. In the time between the broadcast and the first week of March, Hale received several news clippings in the mail about the incident. At the time, Ms. Hale lived in New York City. She wanted to set the record straight and defend herself to readers. Today, we call it a little something different: throwing shade.

She presented a few simple points of interest in her defense. For one, she was a native-born American citizen, not English. Her second response to Alcorn and H.L.W. are as “shade-worthy” as it gets in pre-depression America. Take notes, haters:

(Source: Washington Post)
(Source: Washington Post)

In the end, she had received “scores of letters” by individuals thanking her for her talk. Some letters even asked “the blessing of God on what (I) am trying to do.” No further information on the matter exists. She died in 1967.


Praise be, Based Hale.

Source Information:

Forbes-Robertson Hale, Beatrice. “Opposes Companionate Marriage.” The Washington Post, March 7, 1928.

Forbes-Robertson Hale, Beatrice. What Women Want: An Interpretation of The Feminist Movement. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1914.

“Mrs. Hale’s Talk on Compassionate Marriage is Defended; Children Should Be Enlightened at Home, Says Writer.” The Washington Post, February 19, 1928.

“Radio.” The Washington Post, February 8, 1928.

“Radio Obscenity.” The Washington Post, February 11, 1928.

Cozy Bunks in the Patent Office, 1861

(Harpers Weekly, July 21, 1861)
(LOC Image: LC-USZ62-59276)

At the start of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 troops in the defense of the United States for 90 days – a time frame the Government felt would be enough to suppress the Rebellion. Rhode Island, a state whose staunch allegiance to the United States dates back before the American Revolution, was the first to answer the call and organize.

Packed tightly aboard transport ships, Rhode Island Militia Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside led a large contingent of troops to Washington, D.C. to ready for war.

Washington, D.C. was still a young city in 1861. The space required for soldiers was simply not there. Many units like the First Rhode Island Regiment were forced to find alternative quarters. The image above is a sketch from the June 1, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly. The image portrays the men of the First Rhode Island Regiment sleeping three to a bunk inside the U.S. Patent Office in NW DC. The short article accompanying the image detailed the Regiment’s short stay in the unorthodox barracks:

“Never since American inventive genius was first aroused did the Patent Office contain such remarkable models of American manufacture as those which now sleep three deep in ‘bunks’ spread along the edge of the cabinets; and to those students of mechanism who have been wont to restore to the Patent Office to work out unfinished problems and botch great inventions, the presence of the sturdy Rhode Islanders, and the stacks of eloquent muskets present a novel and a starling scene.”

The 90-day volunteers fought in the Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. It would be their only combat experience. The Regiment left the DC area for home on July 25, 1861 and mustered out in early August. During the time in service, the First Rhode Island Regiment lost twenty-five men to combat and disease.

Source Information:

“Our Army at Washington.” Harpers Weekly, July 1, 1861.

Death at Daylight: NC Man Stabbed During Rush Hour

“Beatty drew a gun on him, and lied and double-crossed him, and he wasn’t taking any more off anybody.”

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We are conditioned to believe that most violent crimes occur at night in dark places. After all, Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t killed on their way to a cozy Sunday brunch. Here in the nation’s Capitol, the most heinous acts against individuals are reported on the 11 o’clock news, not the morning edition.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 11.04.04 AM copyIn July 1951, 33 year-old Donald C. Beatty of NC was violently stabbed to death in NW DC in broad daylight. He was murdered in full view of residents during the morning rush hour. No one stopped to save his life. Frank Williams, Jr., the assailant, was reportedly drunk at the time of the incident.

Both men were from Salisbury, NC. According to his official statement, Williams and Beatty were in DC looking for employment. After a brief stay in Alexandria for a job, they spent Tuesday evening at the Trailways Bus Station at the 1200 block of New York Avenue. By Wednesday morning, Beatty was dead.

According to the Afro-American, Williams ran after Beatty along the 900 block of New York Avenue on the morning of the 11th. Beatty tripped and fell along the sidewalk of the street and into a gutter, rendering him unable to escape. Williams turned him over and proceeded to stab him five times while people walked by.

Beatty reportedly cried out for help to onlookers as Williams continuously stabbed him in the heart and chest. Others said Beatty desperately pleaded to spare his life moments before Williams delivered the fatal blow. Either way, no bystander cared enough to take action. One witness to the tragedy commented to reporters, “Would you have stopped him with a knife in his hand?” Williams rifled through his dying friend’s pockets after the act. His demeanor was cool and collected:

“After the crime was completed, witnesses said that Williams stepped on the sidewalk and asked a bystander for a cigarette.” (Memphis World, July 13, 1951)

Williams stood there and puffed on his cigarette while he watched his friend grasp to the last seconds of his life. He stood clutching the bloody knife when police arrived moments later. By then, Beatty was dead.

At the time of his arrest, Williams swore self-defense. Williams stated that Beatty had a gun and threatened to kill him, which prompted him to pull out his knife and defend himself. No eyewitness interviewed at the crime scene or in Grand Jury saw Beatty carry or pull out a gun.

Justice came to Frank Williams, Jr. one year later. District Judge Alexander Holtzoff sentenced Williams to seven to twenty-one years in prison for second degree murder. His defense attorney argued for temporary insanity “due to excessive alcohol,” which did not sway the jury. Judge Hotlzoff stated during the court decision that there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty of first degree murder – enough for the electric chair. The last DC execution occurred five years later in 1957.

Source Information:
“Jury Praised By Judge in Murder Case: Holtzoff Says Verdict Of Second Degree Was ‘Illogical But Wise.’” The Washington Post, May 17, 1952.

“Man Fatally Stabbed in D.C. Street Fight.” The Afro-American, July 21, 1951.

“Man Fatally Stabbed In DC While Hundreds Watch.” Memphis World, July 13, 1951.