Two things Washingtonians should be able to insist upon are (1) truth in tourism, the right of our visiting friends and relatives to get correct information from tour guides, and (2) truth in post card captions, the assurance that what is printed on the cards is accurate.
Misinformation peddled by some District-licensed tour guides is legend. But the worst post card error recently noted was sent along by Win Barber of Oxon Hill.
Bought at the Pavilion at the Old Post Office at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the card reads: "Completed in 1899, the Old Post Office is the capital's oldest federal building . . . . "
Barber writes: "Whoever made that claim above has a vivid imagination. For starters, the following federal buildings are all older . . . : (1) Capitol, (2) White House, (3) main Treasury, (4) National Portrait Gallery the former Patent Office at Seventh and F streets NW , (5) Old Executive Office Building," which was long called the State, War and Navy Building, and a sixth building that Metro Scene interprets as the old Pension Building on Judiciary Square.
"Perhaps you know others," Barber told me, adding: "A post card that sells for the high price of 45 cents ought to at least be accurate."
Indeed. Using a conservative definition of federal buildings, I can add four others: the International Trade Commission, once the General Land Office, at Seventh and F streets NW; the Auditors Building, the former Bureau of Engraving, at 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW; the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, the one-time Washington City Hall, near Indiana Avenue and Sixth Street NW, and the main Library of Congress building.
Beyond that are the Winder Building at 17th and F streets NW, once Gen. U.S. Grant's Civil War headquarters, then privately but now federally owned; countless buildings at the Washington Navy Yard, Fort McNair, the Marine Barracks, St. Elizabeths Hospital and along the Washington Aqueduct; the two oldest Smithsonian Institution buildings, and federally erected buildings at Howard University and Gallaudet College.
Washington Inkwell, listed on the card as its publisher, did not answer repeated telephone calls.
I've known Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) for more than 15 years, since he represented Prince George's County in the Maryland Senate, and often have wondered about that unusual first name. But I was never impertinent enough to ask its origin.
So, with some chagrin mixed with great interest, Metro Scene reprints the following, somewhat abbreviated, from Saturday's New York Times:
"In Hoyer's two terms in the House, he has received letters addressed to Stony, Sterry, Stenly, Stency, Stevenly, Stanley and Stevie, not to mention Denny, Finney and Tenny. One writer, striving for greater formality, opened, 'Dear Stanislaus.'
"Mr. Hoyer, a veteran of Maryland Democratic politics, is of Danish descent. His father was named Steen, and his son was given the diminutive form of the name, along with a bundle of future identification problems."