Washington Board of Trade

Bibliographic Essay

Far and away, the most informative and helpful source for producing this module was The Washington Post archive accessed through ProQuest Historical Newspapers. This historical archive provided invaluable information in order to interpret and provide commentary on individual items in the document list such as the Washington Auditorium Corporation, the Eisenhower Civic Center, the Kennedy Center, the RFK Stadium expansion, and the Washington D.C. Convention Center. Being able to read contemporary news reports showed the Washington Auditorium had great trouble in fundraising, finishing construction, and remaining solvent. Also, accounts from The Washington Post showed the RFK expansion that George Allen of the Washington Redskins sought was successful, provided a narrative for the events that led to the opening of the Kennedy Center, along with the groundbreaking and eventual demolition of the old Washington D.C. Convention.

The invaluable help of the newspaper archive was especially true for the document with the most action taking place and probably containing the most complexity, the riff between the Washington Board of Trade and Abe Pollin over the new arena. Many moving parts comprised this collection of documents, all happening at the same time: the Bullets moving from Baltimore to Washington, the District being awarded a new NHL hockey franchise, the Eisenhower Civic Center legislation stalling in Congress, and a new privately financed arena in suburban Maryland. No doubt, this would have been quite confusing without the aid of The Washington Post archive. Also, the issues surrounding the failed Eisenhower Civic Center were quite complicated with the President, Congress, and the Board of Trade all heavily involved. The historical newspaper accounts shed much needed light on the events and the debate in the late 1960s and the early 1970s surrounding the civic center.

Several websites were extremely helpful in providing both current and historical information for this module. The websites of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Greater Washington Initiative, a regional cooperative marketing organization that is an affiliate of the board, are very informative and comprehensive sources in providing detailed information into the present day work of the organization. It is striking that the footprint set in 1889 is still evident today, with committees and task forces meeting one a month or quarterly along with one large annual meeting. As well, the official websites of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Washington Convention Center provided background on each facility and important information for the items in this module on each venue.

The unique form of local government in Washington makes many of these complicated issues in this module even more complex. The nature of how Washington was governed before 1974, and even after, is difficult to fully understand at times. Some background into the nature of Washington’s local government is helpful in grappling with these issues. If lacking in this area, an excellent starting point to gain insight and knowledge into Washington's "peculiar form of government" is Congress and the Governance of the Nation's Capital: The Conflict of Federal and Local Interests by Charles Wesley Harris, published in 1995 by Georgetown University Press.

The documents digitized in this module are located in the historical records of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, archived in the George Washington University Special Collections and University Archives in the Gelman Library. A complete index of the historical archive can be found here. As is quickly seen when reading this index, the historical archive of the Board of Trade is enormous. Instead of attempting to offer a linear history, this web module seeks to offer a brief early history of the organization along with exploring a particular theme, investment in Washington’s cultural infrastructure. Many themes beyond this particular topic regarding the comprehensive work of the Board of Trade could be explored in their historical archive. As well, there is much more to be explored and discovered about their work investing in the cultural infrastructure of District; including, but not limited to, Presidential inaugurals, the Pageant of Peace, the Parade for Progress, the Trade Expo, the Transportation Center, the National Visitors’ Center, and the D.C. Armory. Especially notable, a significant story is within this archive regarding the proposal and construction of RFK Stadium in late 1950s and early 1960s, along with losing two baseball teams, the original Senators after the 1960 season and the expansion Senators to Texas after the 1971 season. Also, the 34 year odyssey to bring baseball back to the District and to construct a new stadium in Anacostia is a significant narrative waiting to constructed from the archives of the Board of Trade.  

Secondary Sources

A history of the Washington Board of Trade was published in 1989 entitled Civics, Commerce, and Community: A History of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, 1889-1989 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Board. This work is the Master's thesis of then George Washington University student Jessica I. Elfenbein and was directed by Howard Gillette, Jr. and William H. Becker. George Mason does not carry this title at any of its libraries, but it can be requested through the Washington Research Library Consortium as both George Washington University and the University of the District of Columbia carry this work.

Several monographs and journal articles have been produced that use the archives and activities of the Washington Board of Trade as a major source. A few of the notable works are listed below.

Bibliographic Citations

Lessoff, Alan. The Nation and Its City: Politics, Corruption and Progress in Washington, D.C., 1861-1902. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

An exploration of Washington, D.C. beginning just after the Civil War through the Guilded Age and the Progressive Era. Lessoff argues that the absence of a major manufacturing and industrial base typical of most American cities actually aided local civic leaders in developing local urban policies.

Martha Derthick, "Politics in Voteless Washington ," Journal of Politics, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Feb. 1963): 93-106.

Derthick explains why the unique structure of government in Washington, D.C. draws high interest from the political scientists. Typical urban political models that are easily applied to other large American cities do not work when used on Washington. Although failing into the political science realm, this article becomes a historical artifact of sorts as it was written before the home rule era began in 1974.

Roger R. Stough, Kingsley E. Haynes and Harrison S. Campbell Jr., "Small Business Entrepreneurship in the High Technology Services Sector: An Assessment for the Edge Cities of the U.S. National Capital Region," Small Business Economics 10 (Feb. 1998): 61-74.

Edge cities have been a popular topic for scholars and commentators to explore. The metro Washington, D.C. area is a popular location for edge city scholars to analyze as several reside around the urban core. This article explores small businesses exploding in growth at this point 1998 within the high technology sector of what has been nicknamed "The Capital Netplex."

Carl Abbott, "Dimensions of Regional Change in Washington, D.C." American Historical Review, Vol. 95, No. 5 (Dec. 1990): 1367-1393.

A historian takes a look at the popular notion of Washington's regional orientation over time, from a "slovenly southern village" to a modern metropolis. Debate has existed over time regarding whether if D.C. is Northern or Southern. Abbott seeks to address two question with this article: "When have major changes occured in the city's regional orientation and what has been the character of such changes?"

H. Paul Caemmerer, "Problems in Restoring the Plan of Washington," Journal of the American Society of Architectural Historians Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jan. 1944): 34-40.

Dr. H. Paul Caemmerer, writing as the sitting secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts, writes on the history of architecture in Washington, D.C. as it related to the original L'Enfant plan. The Washington Board of Trade aided greatly in restoring the plan at the turn of the 20th century.