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True Tales from the Life of Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Stories from a Single Image

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0344
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Alice Roosevelt Longworth; Secretary of State Philander Knox, an unidentified man, and Secretary of Commerce Charles Nagel at Fort Myer, Va., July 1909 (Library of Congress)

What do a presidential wild child, an electric car, and the sale of the first military airplane all have to do with one another? They are all featured players in an all-true tale just waiting to be told by master storyteller and popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw.

It’s quite a moment. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, sitting in her Baker electric car adorned in a fashionable Merry-Widow hat, pours from a thermos amid a row of cars. Three men, including the Secretaries of State and Commerce, stand around her vehicle looking up expectantly at her. They’re all at Fort Myer, Virginia, for the astonishing trials of the Wright brothers’ Military Flyer in July 1909. (The brothers even hired an Edison film crew to capture the festivities.) The historic flights were a social calendar highlight of the year for the cream of Washington society.

In a rollicking, richly illustrated presentation, Glenshaw—in conversation with historian Callan Shea—peels back the fascinating layers in this deceptively simple-looking image. Step back into the fast times of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Chase Alice—an avid motorist —as she drives her father crazy and her electric car around Gilded-Age Washington on her midnight “night rider” raids. See the Wright brothers bring their revolutionary technology to Fort Myer and astound the world. Then watch how it all comes together with Alice, serving so-called “pink lemonade” to the members of Taft’s cabinet, as she contributes to an innovation we all know today as the classic American tailgate party.

Fans of Glenshaw’s popular series Art + History will be familiar with the enthralling way he breaks down a work of art to tell the whole story behind the creation. Join him as he turns his trained eye to an iconic photograph to reveal its historical background—and the many stories hidden in a single frame of film.

General Information

American Women's History Initiative