Strange and Obscure Stories of Washington, DC

Little-Known Tales about Our Nation's Capital

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About The Book

Strange and Obscure Stories of Washington, DC is a collection of wild but true tales about our nation’s capital. Starting in the early days of the republic and reaching into modern times, the book recounts odd and humorous events that didn’t make their way into the history books.
Along the way the book introduces a host of memorable characters:

  • Land speculators James Greenleaf and Robert Morris, whose financial shenanigans almost took down the Federal City before it was even established
  • Civil War madam Mary Ann Hall, who ran the city’s most upstanding brothel and died with an estate valued at $2 million
  • The “Treasury Girls”—the first wave of female workers, hired to cut individual bills from printed sheets of cash (with scissors), who prompted a government investigation into immoral behavior in the workplace
  • The NSA’s secret staff of African Americans who went to work in code rooms after Harry Truman desegregated the federal workforce
  • The 1960s activist who drew attention to a rat problem in poor neighborhoods by shuttling them in his station wagon to the toniest parts of Georgetown
    Readers will also find out how a hurricane saved the city in 1812, how a demonstration of the world’s largest naval gun nearly killed the president, and about the tree at Washington Cathedral whose origins trace back to the Holy Land at the time of Joseph of Arimathea.
    With Strange and Obscure Stories of Washington, DC in hand, the city will never seem the same again.
  • About The Author

    Tim Rowland has authored a number of books, including histories of the Adirondacks and Western Maryland mountains, and the Strange and Obscure series, collections of historical essays focusing on lesser-known aspects of American history. An avid outdoorsman, Rowland has climbed in the Himalayas, hiked the Inca Trail, trekked throughout Europe, and ridden a bicycle across the United States. He has climbed all 46 Adirondack High Peaks over 4,000 feet. He and his wife Beth live in Jay, New York.

    Raves and Reviews

    ""Sprightly, entertaining, surprising, and often wise."—Fergus Bordewich, author of The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extroardinary Men Invented the Government

    "Once again, with several other topics, Tim Rowland has gathered entertaining stories, this time about our nation’s capital. Ranging from the obscure to the outrageous, Tim’s research skills and his gracious witty writing will delight and amuse all readers. I highly recommend it!"—Dr. Tom Clemens, President, Save Historic Antietam Foundation

    "Legend says that Washington was built on a swamp, but the capital city’s real muck and mire are found in some of the characters of its history, from sleazy Federalist-era developer James Greenleaf, to Mary Ann Hall, whose opulent bordello catered to the highest of Washington society, to Orville Babcock, the brilliant military engineer who later proved to be an even more brilliant engineer of corruption. Tim Rowland tells their stories and many more, including those of some not-so-well-known Washingtonians who avoided the muck and should be remembered with admiration."—Thomas Firey, editor, Cato’s Regulation Magazine

    "All of America—and probably all of the world—knows that Washington is strange. But Strange and Obscure Stories of Washington, D.C. is my kind of strange – funny, illuminating tales that tell a lot about the city's history and how, physically and psychically, this crazy, ridiculous city got to be the way it is."—Josh Kurtz, founder of Maryland Matters, Maryland’s premier political news site

    ""Sprightly, entertaining, surprising, and often wise."—Fergus Bordewich, author of The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extroardinary Men Invented the Government

    "Once again, with several other topics, Tim Rowland has gathered entertaining stories, this time about our nation’s capital. Ranging from the obscure to the outrageous, Tim’s research skills and his gracious witty writing will delight and amuse all readers. I highly recommend it!"—Dr. Tom Clemens, President, Save Historic Antietam Foundation

    "Legend says that Washington was built on a swamp, but the capital city’s real muck and mire are found in some of the characters of its history, from sleazy Federalist-era developer James Greenleaf, to Mary Ann Hall, whose opulent bordello catered to the highest of Washington society, to Orville Babcock, the brilliant military engineer who later proved to be an even more brilliant engineer of corruption. Tim Rowland tells their stories and many more, including those of some not-so-well-known Washingtonians who avoided the muck and should be remembered with admiration."—Thomas Firey, editor, Cato’s Regulation Magazine

    "All of America—and probably all of the world—knows that Washington is strange. But Strange and Obscure Stories of Washington, D.C. is my kind of strange – funny, illuminating tales that tell a lot about the city's history and how, physically and psychically, this crazy, ridiculous city got to be the way it is."—Josh Kurtz, founder of Maryland Matters, Maryland’s premier political news site

    More books from this author: Tim Rowland