President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom on June 2, 1886.
Frances Cleveland was the 1st First Lady to marry a serving US president at the White House and she was also the very first First Lady to give birth in the White House
President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom on June 2, 1886.
Frances Cleveland was the 1st First Lady to marry a serving US president at the White House and she was also the very first First Lady to give birth in the White House
Standing in front of Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass (Photo Credit: The Historical Homemaker)
My latest travels took me to the historic museum and home of Frederick Douglass, located in Southeast Washington D.C. The museum showcased a timeline of Frederick Douglass’ life which included his many accomplishments and the influences he had on the course of American history. In the museum, there is a wall of his famous quotations, original pieces of his work, and of course, you can visit his beloved home, Cedar Hill, where he spent the last years of his life.
He was born into bondage in 1818 in the vicinity of Talbot County, Maryland. At eight years old, he was sent to a plantation in Baltimore, Maryland and this is where the mistress of the plantation grew very fond of him and started teaching him how to read and write – a practice that was uncommon for the time period (and in some places in the US it was against the law).
Frederick Douglass said goodbye to Baltimore in 1838 when he was 20 years old – leaving his former life in bondage behind for a brand new life in New York. Anna Murray Douglass, his first wife, sold her personal belongings to purchase him a ticket to New York. He was still a slave, however, and he vowed not to marry Anna as a slave but only if he were a free man. It wasn’t until after he secured his freedom that he and Anna were married. It was in New York that he met with the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who recognized Frederick Douglass as a talented speaker. He was then enlisted to give speeches across the country to help educate people about the horrible atrocities of slavery. Being that he knew first had what being a slave entailed, he was able to give a personal perspective on slavery and his audience continued to grow and he became a very popular orator.
Some of the highlights of his life:
One of Frederick Douglass’ famous quotes on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Original autobiography copy on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Frederick Douglass’ Family Tree on Display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Exterior of Cedar Hill (I’m sitting on the left side of the porch) (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack at Cedar Hill, and was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY with his first wife, Anna. Shortly after he passed, Helen Pitts Douglass established the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association to preserve his legacy as well as his impact on United States history. The association still maintains the legacy today.
Cedar Hill beautifully sits on top of a hill overlooking Southeast Washington D.C. The tours are free, during which you will learn about the history of the house and Frederick Douglass’ time while living there. Most of the items in the house are original pieces including the portraits, dining room furniture, and beds.
There are several rooms in the house including two rooms for entertaining and over half a dozen bedrooms. Although the entire house is rich with history, three rooms in particular I found most interesting: the first den, the dining room, one of the three guest rooms for women, and Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, all of which have original pieces from when he lived at the house.
Entertaining room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
The first room used for informal entertaining of guests and showcases a piano in the left corner, a fireplace in the center of the room, and a bust of Frederick Douglass gifted to his family when he lived there. I learned in the tour that Frederick Douglass combined interior design with remembrance of American history, this being shown by the ball and chain tied around the curtains to the room symbolizing the roots of slavery in American history.
Picture of ball and chain curtain ties, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
The dining room of Cedar Hill include pictures taken with other prominent Washington, DC people at the time, and original dining furniture. Frederick Douglass sat at the head of the table. This is indicated by the wheels on the bottom of the chair, which made it easier for him to stand up and speak, which he did frequently while entertaining his distinguished guests.
Dining Room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
On the second floor of Cedar Hill, there are three bedrooms: three for women (including guests and one room for each of his wives) and three rooms for men (including the personal bedroom of Frederick Douglass). The guest room used for women included an original portrait of Susan B. Anthony, whom he was very fond of for her advocacy for women’s rights.
Many people don’t know that since 1848, Frederick Douglass was also an advocate for women’s right to vote.
Women’s guest room with Susan B. Anthony portrait in the upper left side, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
His bedroom was opposite of his first wife’s room in the upstairs hall. Frederick Douglass would use dumbbells to work out every morning after waking up to exercise and stay physically fit. Cedar Hill has these dumbbells and they can be seen on display by the foot of the chair in his room
Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Chair with original Dumbbells, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Two other pieces I found very interesting include his desk in his office and a trunk with his name on it, which was used on his many travels throughout the country and Europe.
Frederick Douglass’ Trunk, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Frederick Douglass’ Office, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Every room in Cedar Hill is beautiful in its unique way and the tour guides are very knowledgeable and will answer any questions you can think of while touring the house. Visiting Cedar Hill and learning about Frederick Douglass’ life and his huge impact on American History was truly a memorable experience for me, not to mention the wonderful scenic view from Cedar Hill.
View from outside Cedar Hill (Phot Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Click here to plan your free visit to Cedar Hill and the Frederick Douglass Museum.
I recently traveled to The Torpedo Factory Art Center, which houses the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. The Torpedo Factory Art Center was built and began functioning in November of 1918 shortly after WWI and has since been converted into a place for local artists to show their work and also to display the ancient relics found in the area nearby as well as throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. These particular relics include a copy of The New York Tribune from 1861, an original musket that was built in the 1820’s, and a quartzite spearhead that dates back 13,000 years ago. Reading and learning about these relics, as well as the many others in the museum, allows a larger scope of understanding as to how our ancestors lived.
(Picture of Museum Exterior)
The city of Alexandria, Virginia is a fascinating place that was founded in 1749 and is rich in American history and politics. It was originally given the name “Water Street” because of its location and proximity to the Potomac River. Since it was originally founded, Alexandria has been built around a shoreline that increases over time, requiring updates to adjust with the shoreline.
(Picture of Alexandria shoreline displayed at the Museum)
The first relic I found particularly interesting is a newspaper on display that was originally published on May 26, 1861 with a photograph on the front page of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth. Colonel Ellsworth had been assassinated merely two days prior in Alexandria. The paper was published by The New York Tribune, which was in print from the 1840’s to the 1860’s and was very much in support of The Whig Party. I thought it was very interesting how little the text was, and how much information fit on a single page. This makes sense though seeing as the daily paper was one of the few ways information reached the general public both on a National and a State level.
(Picture of the display of the New York Tribune article about Col Ellsworth)
The Alexandria Archaeology Museum includes displays of information regarding Alexandria’s role in the American Civil War. During the Civil War, many Alexandria businesses were converted into military hospitals including hotels, churches, and ordinary citizen’s homes. There were a total of 30 hospitals in the city of Alexandria at one time or another during the War. Upon the conclusion of the Civil War, the military hospitals were taken down and the buildings that were converted into hospitals were either torn down or changed their appearances in a dramatic fashion. Read more about Alexandria and their part in the Civil War here.
In 1978 during an excavation mission on the nearby courthouse, a Wickham musket was discovered almost completely intact. It was deduced that Marine T. Wickham manufactured the musket between 1822 and 1834. Wickham was contracted to produce rifles for the American Government out of Philadelphia. This particular Wickham musket pre dates the Civil War, albeit similar rifles were used in the war.
(Picture of musket)
The coolest piece of history on display in the Alexandria Archeology Museum (in my opinion anyway) is a piece of quartzite spearhead officially named “Clovis Point.” This particular Clovis Point was discovered in 2007 in Freedman’s Cemetery, a cemetery for formerly enslaved and free African Americans that has not used since 1869. What makes this Clovis Point very interesting is its over 13,000 years old! This piece of quartzite is from the Paleoindian Period and is the oldest artifact I have ever heard of and seen personally. There is generally not a whole lot of information about humans in that time period, making this relic quite a treasure due to its extreme age. This particular quartz was easily manipulated into a spear head early humans used to hunt with. The fact there is evidence of how humans lived 13,000 years ago still blows my mind.
Other artifacts I found personally interesting include a letter from a drummer boy, a list of diseases and causes of death from 1863-1868, and a cohesive file of death records from those same years. You can read through the death records from 1863-1868 and see if any of you recognize any of the names or if you even have ancestry included, and how everyone in the records died. I couldn’t help but look through the records to curiously see if any of my ancestors had their names in the book.
The museum also has a lot of activities for families and kids including putting artifacts together with your hands. There is way more to be seen and learn here and I highly recommend making the Alexandria Archeology museum a point of interest when you’re in the area if you want to learn more about how life was from hundreds to thousands of years ago. You can learn more about the Alexandria Archeology Museum right here.
(Picture of me putting together a plate)
(Picture of the historic and beautiful Alexandria Waterfront)
It was a strange and surreal day when I visited The Surratt House, only a few miles outside of Washington, DC in the town of Clinton, Maryland. It was a rainy day and it was foggy when I arrived at the house. A few weeks ago, when I visited Fords Theater, I decided to visit the former home of Mrs. Mary Surratt who is one of the most likely misunderstood and vilified women in history. Her story is so intriguing and fascinating and I just wanted to see for myself where she one lived and to try to figure out what brought a simple wife and mother to the hangman gallows in Washington, DC on July 7, 1865.
Mrs. Mary Surratt holds has a unique and infamous role in American history as the first woman put on trial and then sentenced to death in a military court. This was, of course, due to her questionable involvement in the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Although friends and family testified at her trial that she was a good Christian woman who was not involved in all with the conspiracy to kill President Lincoln, Mary Surratt, along with three other men, were executed by hanging for treason. The only offense committed by Mrs. Surratt was being the owner of the boarding house where the real conspirators planned the attack on President Lincoln’s life.
The exterior of the Surratt House (photo credit: The Historical Traveler)
Mary Surratt’s parents had owned a farm, which she later inherited along with her husband, John Surratt. The Surratt’s also invested in a town house on H street (located near Ford’s Theatre) and converted their other home (in what was called Surrattsville) into a tavern due to it’s convenient location to major cities including Washington, DC.
The Surratt’s had three children: Isaac, Susanna, and John Jr.
The tavern did more than serve drinks to visitors. Guests could also vote here, pick up their mail, and have a warm dinner and lodging overnight for a decent fee.
The Bar with the Post Office Slots (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
(Interesting fact: People used to pay to pick up their mail. In an effort to save money, peers would tell whom they were writing to that receiving a letter was enough to signal their safety, and there was no need to spend money to pick up their mail. This led to the usage of postage stamps, where you had to pay money to send mail rather than receive it.)
Upon her husband’s death, Mary Surratt turned the tavern over to John Lloyd while Mary took Susanna and John Jr. to live in their boarding house in Washington, DC.
The tavern formerly owned by Mary Surratt was restored in the 1970’s, but maintains furniture all from the period. There are two original pieces still in the house now: the round table and Mrs. Surratt’s French writing desk.
the round table and Mrs. Surratt’s French writing desk (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
A unique feature of the house, which was uncommon for the time, is the kitchen addition to the house. Most kitchens were separate attachments to prevent house fires, but the Surratt’s had a tin burner that reduced the chances of a house fire significantly.
Kitchen in the Surratt House (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
(Interesting fact: windows and doorframes are blue in the kitchen because at the time, it was believed that flies and other insects would not cross over due to their confusion of thinking it was the sky)
When the house was restored and converted to the museum it is now, a public bathroom had to be built. Mr. and Mrs. Surratt’s bedroom was turned into a bathroom and the room where Isaac and John Jr. slept is made to look like Mr. and Mrs. Surratt’s bedroom.
Bedroom made to look like Mr. and Mrs. Surratt’s (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Before that fateful April night in 1865, John Wilkes Booth made a request of Mary Surratt to bring a package to her old tavern, upon learning of visiting John Lloyd. Around the same time, two carbine rifle were hidden in the attic of the house. John Wilkes Booth took one rifle after escaping from Washington, DC and the other was recovered by Lloyd and investigators after having fell through the rafters.
picture of attic and rifle on the side of the door, where it initially was hidden (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
The trial of Mary Surratt was controversial for several reasons. Despite testimony from peers and neighbors who claimed she was a good Christian woman, she was sentenced to death by a military court, causing more controversy because people felt that it was unjust for the military to convict her when women weren’t permitted to enlist. People felt that the only crime she committed was that she was the owner the property where the conspirators met and hatched the assassination plot.
Picture of the four executed conspirators. Mrs. Surratt is on the far left with the rope around the bottom of her waist.
(Interesting Fact: Traditionally a noose was wrapped around the neck 8 times of the men about to be put to death. Because Mary Surratt was a woman, they only wrapped the rope 5 times because they believed that she most likely was not going to be executed because after all – she was a woman and women didn’t get put to death. This had never happened in US history until then)
Mary Surratt is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington D.C. However, her gravesite is not marked per request of her family.
I’ve merely skimmed the surface with information that is available only at the Surratt House. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute there as a follow up to Fords Theater. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and can answer any questions. Tickets are very inexpensive too. They offer senior and student discounts too! To plan your trip and learn more about the first woman ever executed by the U.S. Federal Government, visit the Surratt House Museum.
Since the assassination, Ford’s Theatre has been converted into a museum where you can learn everything about the assassination including the many attempts on his life before the fateful night in April 1865. You learn about the foreshadowing of the assassination from both President Lincoln and the man who shot him. You also learn of the lives and about the trials of those who conspired to (and were then charged with and then put to death) kill President Lincoln.
A young picture of Abraham Lincoln on display at Ford’s Theater
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States with 40% of the votes in a four-way contest.
During a speech the following year Abraham Lincoln concluded his speech with these words:
“…if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle (freedom)…I would rather be assassinated on the spot than to surrender it…”
There were many attempts on President Lincoln’s life including one from a group who named themselves the “Plug Uglies.” After this attempt, President Lincoln was advised to stay armed and carry a weapon on his persons. He refused to do this and stated, “would not for the world have it said that Mr. Lincoln had to enter the National Capitol armed.”
These are the actual weapons given to President Lincoln that he refused to have on him
John T. Ford opened Ford’s Theatre in 1863 under the name Ford’s New Theatre after it having been converted from a First Baptist Church. Ford’s New Theater became a popular escape for entertainment during the depressing years of the Civil War. Many popular actors of the day performed at Ford’s Theatre including John Wilkes Booth. John Wilkes Booth was very famous and was known for his athleticism and his southern pride. He came from a famous Theater family and his father was the popular actor Junius Booth.
John Wilkes Booth father: Junius Booth. On display at Ford’s Theater.
Interesting Fact: During a performance of The Marble Heart, John Wilkes Booth directed his threatening lines towards the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre while President Lincoln was in attendance. He knew President Lincoln was watching and Booth hinted publicly his dislike of President Lincoln.
John Wilkes Booth in 1865
The conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln started in the boarding house of Mrs. Mary Surratt where she and other conspirators plotted the assassination. Of the conspirators who were put on trial following the assassination, four were sentenced to death: including Mrs. Surratt. She unfortunately is known as the first woman to be executed by the US government.
Ford’s Theatre has the stories of each individual conspirator on display as well as statues representing their likeness. I found that I am personally a lot taller than the conspirators but am of course, much shorter than President Lincoln – who was 6’3″
Here I am standing next to one of the conspirators!
The theatre itself is very spacious and open. The stage is not too high off the ground and the circular design of the room works really well.
Pictures of the theatre including seats, ceiling and stage
Although visitors are allowed to walk around the theatre, the Presidential Box where President Lincoln was assassinated is closed off.
Picture of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre
You can go through the door frame where John Wilkes Booth entered and waited to assassinate President Lincoln was really neat to see.
Picture of the outside of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre
Across the street from Ford’s Theatre is The Peterson House, which is where President Lincoln was carried to upon being assassinated and where he took his last breath.
Me standing in front of The Peterson House
The Peterson House remained a boarding house for immigrant families after the death of President Lincoln. After the owner passed away, The Peterson House was stripped of all the interior decorations and converted into a newspaper headquarters. After being purchased by the government, The Peterson House was converted into a museum along with Ford’s Theatre. Unfortunately, the decorations and furnishings inside the home are mostly not original pieces.
Picture of the room where President Lincoln passed away. The bed was on the far right.
The room where President Lincoln passed away is furnished almost identically to how it was when he was carried over from Ford’s Theatre. They have recreated the room with a photograph taken the evening of the assassination.
The Peterson House is an extension of the museum which chronicles the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth and the impact of President Lincoln on the world.
Picture of the John Wilkes Booth manhunt trail
You can follow the trail he took from Washington, DC into Virginia where he was finally caught and shot – which he then succumbed to his wounds.
Through The Peterson House is a spiral staircase with a statue of Abraham Lincoln books in the center and every flight of stairs down is another part of Lincoln’s legacy. One floor showcased the despair felt across the Nation by telling the details of the many funerals held for President Lincoln across the United States. Funerals were held in Washington, DC, Boston, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Philadelphia – just to name a few cities.
Interesting Fact: The turnout for these funerals were astounding averaging 100,000 people per funeral, and reaching over 1 million in New York.
President Lincoln was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.
Following the same stairs downward was a room where people who passed by can leave notes describing their ideas on what qualities Abraham Lincoln possessed including courage, ideals for equality and integrity.
The staircase ends where the bottom of the statue begins and concluded my self guided tour of Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House. There is so much more information and so many lessons to learn from going through these museums. Tickets are easy to purchase although you will probably want to plan your trip in advance online here because the theatre is still used for productions to this day.
Ford’s Theatre is a 100% MUST SEE visit! I promise you will have a great time and learn so much along the way.
Picture of the statue of books
Meeting with the Historical Traveler today. He is going on a new adventure and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Yesterday was a perfect day to visit Mount Vernon – the first President’s home. The father of our country.
Everybody knows our first President of the United States of America, George Washington, is famous for many things including being a decorated General and leader during the American Revolution.
While visiting his beloved home, Mount Vernon, I learned more of the “other side” of George Washington, including his early contributions in expert farming and fishing on the Potomac River, as well as his amazing craftsmanship and original architecture. All of which took place on the property of his estate.
It was fascinating to learn that Mount Vernon once housed meetings before and during the
This beloved home of George Washington has since been turned into a museum where millions gather each year to learn about our first President.
George Washington believed that the path to economic growth and success as a Nation lied within the ability to naturally produce agricultural products. Washington studied farming extensively including implementing the new husbandry system which included a variety of fertilization methods and a new crop rotation system.
George Washington even built a custom barn, inventing a new way to collect grain. He constructed this innovative barn with sixteen sides for circular treading. Horses and mules would trot around in the grain, which would collect below the barn and stay sheltered from harsh weather conditions until it was time
to collect it.
Mount Vernon sits on the Potomac River, which was used for fishing and was part of what then was considered a highway or interstate of the time. George Washington took advantage of this fishing, believing the other path to growth as a Nation was expanding West. In a good season of fishing, Washington would catch more than one million Shad Herring to feed his family, guests, and slaves. Washington would then sell the surplus for profit, running his own fishing business in his own backyard.
(Interesting Fact: While I was on the Potomac River dock on the property I learned that on March 28th, 1785, representatives from Virginia and Maryland met at Mount Vernon to discuss navigational rights on the Potomac River. The representatives wrote the Mount Vernon Compact and the meeting was such a success that it led to many more meetings of the same nature, and in turn led to the US Constitution which was written in 1787 and put into effect in 1789.)
George Washington died in 1799. He had written in his will that he wanted a new tomb to be laid to rest in instead of what is now called the Old Vault which is also on Mount Vernon.
After visiting the tomb, I then made my way to George Washington’s famous home, which I can tell you is even more beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Unfortunately no pictures were permitted inside the house so you’ll have to take my word for it until you visit yourself someday.
The outside of the house is the same color as it was when George Washington was living in it, and if you look closely you can see three false windows on the front facing left side of the house. They are boarded on the inside because Washington was fond of art but wanted to keep the home looking symmetrical from the
exterior. The home included a servants hall on the very left, an art gallery, nine bedrooms including the master bedroom and the many guestrooms, and a kitchen on the outside of the house in a separate structure.
On the other side of this wall with the fake windows is a room dubbed ” The New
Room” because it is the last addition to Mount Vernon that George Washington added.
The New Room served as an art gallery with original paintings still on display all over the
room. There were maybe two-dozen portraits, most of which were of rivers.
The curators of the home think this is because he was very adamant about expanding West and using the water for business and transportation.
Upstairs and through one of four guestrooms is the master bedroom where George and Martha once slept.
This room particularly was interesting because it has more original pieces than any other room in the house, including a desk where Martha
would sit and do work, and a large linen closet for storing the many towels required when housing several guests; something the Washington’s frequently did.
The master bedroom also still has the bed George Washington died in. President
Washington died of an infection in bed surrounded by his loved ones December 14, 1799.
(Interesting Fact: During George Washington’s last year, Mount Vernon housed over 600 guests!)
Downstairs from the master bedroom is George Washington’s study, which is my favorite room on the tour. In his study, Washington obtained 900 volumes and 1,200 titles containing information on anything and everything he could read and learn about. Washington valued education on a personal and public scale believing knowledge is very important. On display in his study is Washington’s original desk with an invention of his chair designed to fan his shoulders and back during the warmer summers via pedal under the desk.
Also in his study, Washington has a portrait of his half-brother, Lawrence Washington. Lawrence mentored Washington when he was young before the Revolutionary war.
(Interesting fact: George Washington inherited Mt. Vernon from his older half-brother, Lawrence, after Lawrence inherited the estate from their father.)
Through the next rooms and the other side of the house in a separate structure was the kitchen. Thankfully pictures were allowed here because it’s not part of the home.
The idea in moving the kitchen outside away from the house was to keep extreme
heat and hazards away from the main building. The kitchen includes stairs in the back that lead up to where the kitchen slaves lived. The downstairs was used for cooking and cleaning and early methods of food storage.
After leaving the tour of the home, I made my way to the museum because I read online there was a new exhibit called Lives Bound Together. Pictures were again not allowed inside the exhibit so I couldn’t take any inside. Lives Bound Together displayed the many stories of slaves who resided and worked on Mount Vernon and the way President Washington was influenced by their lives. Throughout the exhibit were virtual life stories of slaves who labored varying from different parts of Mount Vernon including kitchen staff, farm hands, and George Washington’s personal butler. I think the exhibit is definitely worth going through when you visit Mount Vernon and I think everyone should see it – the exhibit speaks for itself.
(Interesting Fact: George Washington was having ethical dilemmas regarding slavery later in life. Washington prioritized national unity over abolition believing that abolition would divide the country. He went on to free 123 slaves in his will immediately following his death.)
My day at Mount Vernon was an experience I am very happy I had. George Washington is the original American hero and visiting his home along with learning about what an amazing man he was makes me personally proud to be a citizen of the country he helped establish roots for.
I’ve barely scratched the surface with how much there is to learn and experience here at Mount Vernon. New exhibits are still on the way so plan your visit to Mount Vernon by visiting http://www.mountvernon.org where you can see learn about new exhibits and special events! They even have a military discount!
We are so excited to welcome Trevor Bruce as our Historical Traveler. Trevor will be traveling to many historic places and will be writing about his experiences and also talking to interesting people along the way.
We can’t wait to read about your adventures, Trevor!