Last week’s recollections of Queen Elizabeth II’s 1957 trip to Washington spurred memories from many readers.
Jane Allcock Clagett of Ashton was 4 at the time and was at the Queenstown shopping center when Her Majesty toured the Giant there. “She bent down and spoke to me,” Jane wrote. “I do remember the shopping center and seeing her, but I don’t remember what she said to me, because everyone around me was so excited. . . . My 15 minutes of fame, and I was 4 years old.”
Daniel Pflum referred to another event during the queen’s visit: She laid the cornerstone for an addition to the British Embassy. The interesting twist was that she used the same marble-headed ceremonial gavel used by George Washington (who defeated the British) when he laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol in 1783 (which the British burned in the War of 1812).
Daniel is a member of the Freemasons’ Potomac Lodge No. 5, owner of the gavel. It used to be displayed in a special, lighted safe-deposit box at the Farmers and Mechanics Bank at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW. In October 1957, the lodge called an emergency meeting to act on an urgent request from the British Embassy: Could Her Majesty borrow the gavel? The members said yes.
Today, the gavel spends most of its time at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.
University of Maryland archivist Anne Turkos pointed out that the university holds many items related to the Maryland-North Carolina football game the queen attended. As part of a 50th anniversary exhibit on the “Queen’s Game,” local videographer Mike Springirth produced an informative documentary full of interesting tidbits. (This link takes you directly to the documentary: ter.ps/queengamedoc.)
It was decided, for example, that the royal entourage would sit on the North Carolina side of the field. The Maryland fans had a reputation for overindulging in beer and vodka, and no one wanted the queen in the middle of that.
Queen Elizabeth and the royal family own a lot of nice stuff — the Crown Jewels come to mind — but Washington has them beat in one regard: We have the world’s largest collection of Shakespeariana. How the capital came to host the Folger Shakespeare Library is the subject of an article in the new issue of Washington History, the semiannual journal of the Historical Society of Washington.
Author Stephen H. Grant points out that there was nothing preordained about Washington hosting the library. Henry and Emily Folger lived in Brooklyn. He was a wealthy lawyer who rose to become chief executive of Standard Oil (later known as Mobil). As a child, Emily Folger had spent time in Washington and even met Abraham Lincoln. The couple shared a love of literature and put their energies into collecting anything to do with the Bard of Avon.
“The couple assembled a dazzling array of objects,” Grant writes. They bought an average of six books a day over 40 years of collecting. Most were locked in fireproof warehouses in New York. While many cities vied to host their library, Washington won out. Wrote Henry Folger: “I finally concluded I would give it to Washington; for I am an American.”
The other main article in the journal is about the integration of George Washington University, something that GW’s longtime president, Cloyd Heck Marvin, fought against for years. According to author Andrew Novak, Marvin banished left-wing groups from the campus and suspended student journalists from the Hatchet when they editorialized in favor of integration.
Actress Ingrid Bergman made headlines when she signed a petition decrying the fact that African Americans were banned from the audience at Lisner Auditorium during her 1946 performances in “Joan of Lorraine.” (Fun fact: Also in the cast was Kevin McCarthy, the actor later made famous by his role in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”)
It wasn’t until 1954 that GW finally integrated — the last university in Washington to do so — and not until the early 1960s that it allowed black students to live on campus.
The long-delayed publication of the journal — Volume 24, No. 1 — is another indication that the historical society is on the comeback trail. For membership information, go to www.historydc.org.
The first campers arrive Monday at Camp Moss Hollow, 400 unspoiled acres in Fauquier County. They are 7 to 14 years old. They come from throughout the Washington area, from all sorts of families. Many are leaving behind poverty and dysfunction.
Your tax-deductible gift can help ensure that this worthwhile program continues. To donate, go to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check, payable to “Send a Kid to Camp,” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.