Congratulations to Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio on joining baseball’s Hall of Fame! Even though Smoltz is an Altanta Braves player and our Washington, DC guides consider the Braves to be arch-enemies (Go Nationals!), he is quite the player. We’re excited our Boston Red Sox Martinez will be inducted in the July ceremony.
In their honor, Free Tours by Foot have elected a few historical figures to our own Hall of Fame. One historical figure to represent some of the cities where we offer walking tours:
Chosen by a student on one of our DC school tours!
Edward Kennedy Ellington was born and raised in NW DC, primarily around the U Street neighborhood, where we see his childhood home on our U Street Tour. Both of his parents played the piano and he began taking lessons from a neighbor at an early age. He was taught manners and elegance, and obviously learned enough to earn the nickname “Duke” from his friends. Fitting for this post, as a young boy, Ellington preferred baseball to piano and his first job was selling peanuts for the Washington Senators.
His early inspirations into the music scene came from sneaking into a local pool hall. As he moved jobs to become a sign painter, he started to ask clients if their events also needed music. His first gig was at the True Reformer’s Hall on U St NW, where he charged his friends more because they already knew he was good.
Though Duke Ellington is known for jazz, he preferred to be beyond categorization and considered himself more a part of American Music than only jazz.
Chosen by our Boston City Manager, Brian who said “hands down (my favorite Boston historical figure). No one greater. (He was) the mouth of the American Revolution. Without who we may be speaking British today!”
Sam Adams, a native Bostonian and graduate of Harvard, was the publicist of the American Revolution. He was known for being a great orator and his passion for independence from Great Britain. Adams was the first to suggest a continental congress. He spent his life mostly in Boston, when he wasn’t a representative at the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Though he was a brewmaster, he was not very good at it. That photo on the bottle of well-known Sam Adams beer? That’s not Sam Adams. It’s probably Paul Revere.
A blog post is not going to do justice to the story of Sam Adams, for more, take Brian’s Freedom Trail tour to visit Sam Adam’s grave, hear about his twists on the Boston Massacre and more.
Technically, George Meade was born in Spain but to a Philadelphian merchant. He returned as a teenager and continued on to become a career United States Army officer. He fought in the Mexican-American War and most notably the Civil War, where he defeated the Confederates at the Battle of Gettysburg.
He had only been appointed leader of the Army of the Potomac three days before the Gettysburg campaign. Meade organised and successfully led his troops against one of the most formidable Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee. Contemporaries criticized him for not pursing Lee on the retreat and for being short tempered. As time has passed, historians focused more on his successful tactical decisions in the face of new military technology.
Chosen by one of our New York City tour guides, Tom.
Technically, he was born in Minnesota, but that was Robert Zimmerman. “Bob Dylan” was born in Greenwich Village, New York City. His first night in town, he played a set of Woodie Guthrie songs at Cafe Wha? – still in the village and seen on our Greenwich Village Tour.
Though he wouldn’t claim it, his songs from the 1960s became anthems for the anti-war and civil rights movements. Many of them inspired by and written in Greenwich Village.
We have a post about Bob Dylan’s time in the Village and sites associated with him.
Our New Orleans city manager, Sarah, didn’t have any trouble picking this one – it was the quickest answer we got.
Josie Arlington, nee Mary Deubler, was a fiery and spunky madam, so a seemingly odd choice for favorite historical figure but hey, it’s New Orleans! Her brothel, The Arlington, was at 225 North Basin Street in the heart of famed Storyville. This neighborhood was a separated district of legal prostitution and her house was opened 1898 as one of, if not the most, opulent house in the neighborhood.
Her four-story mansion was filled with fireplaces, bay windows, works of great artists and topped with a cupola. In Storyville, you could find women in dark alleys with mattresses on their backs who charged a quarter. The Arlington was a $5 house. Josie’s goal was to run the classiest establishment. She had a shrewd business mind and even as a women in the 19th century she had a successful business, running the preferred brothel for the well to do gentleman.
In the early 1900s, tours of New Orleans would often include a stop in Storyville, to start at The Arlington. Though she is buried in Metairie Cemetery, her story is covered on our St. Louis Cemetery no. 1 tour.
Diana, our Charleston city manager, says the story of Woodward is one of the most important stops on her Historic Charleston tour.
Little is known about the early life of Dr. Henry Woodward. We do know that he volunteered to reside amongst the local Native Americans in the mid 1600s to learn the customs and language. It wasn’t long before he was captured by the Spanish and taken to St. Augustine, Florida.
After his escape, he would join the Carolina fleet on their way to the coast to establish Charleston, South Carolina. The new colony benefited from a successful trading relationship with the local tribes, thanks to Woodward. His interpreting skills, and medical skills as a doctor, helped this fledgling settlement – the natives provided food when the colony was impoverished, they warned of a forthcoming attack by the Spanish, and he helped expand trading routes.
Without Dr. Woodward, there might not be a Charleston to tour!
London: Margaret Beaufort
Chosen by Margaret, our London City Manager, and discussed on our Westminster and City of London tours
Margaret Beaufort was the child bride of a Welsh king who gave birth do Henry Tudor at age 14. She was the one who engineered his return from Europe, his marriage with the Yorkist princess to combine families/forces and also set her son up to eventually usurp the throne at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Throughout her later marriages, the King told her repeatedly to stop her meddling in political affairs and she always said ‘Yeah, okay…’ then did it, anyway! She also managed to sneak correspondence into Westminster Abbey to liaise with Elizabeth Woodville (wife of the disposed Edward IV) who was being held captive and wasn’t allowed visitors whatsoever.
She was a fabulous lady and continued to give good advice to her son well into his reign. She also insisted that her grandchildren be educated – even the ones that weren’t to take the throne, which was a radical way of thinking for the time.
These are our picks for History’s Hall of Fame. Who would you add for historical figures from New York, DC, Charleston, New Orleans, London, Boston and Philadelphia?