On Monday May 16, 2011, our day started with a Capitol Tour set up by our Congressman’s Office. We discovered this was a MUCH nicer way to go that the regular public tours. First we were in a group of about 10, instead of the 20-25 in the public tours, and secondly we were able to go three places the regular tour doesn’t go to: the “Old Supreme Court”, The “Old Senate Chamber”, and the overview seats in the House of Representatives Chamber. Unfortunately the Congress was not in session, so we didn’t get to see what is normally chaotic sessions, with yelling and such other good things that our congress men and women do.
From there we went to the Newseum, a fantastic (relatively new) museum. It is not part of the Smithsonian, but it was well worth the money, I would recommend it highly to anyone going to DC. We had only an hour or so, but the tickets were good for two days, so we knew we could be back. (and in fact we spent another three hours after our visit to the Ford Theater (below) and again Tuesday morning for another 4 hours. All historical events related to reporting of the news up to current day were recorded. We saw everything from a piece of the Berlin wall, to a replica of the Unabomer’s cabin, to the damaged radio tower from the top of the World Trade Center in 9/11, and everything in between.
At 2 PM we arrived at the Ford Theater for a viewing of the museum, followed by a ranger talk in the Ford Theater, complete with the Presidential Box where President Lincoln was shot. We learned there were two other assignations planned for that day (they were not successful) and John Wilkes Booth had about 8 co-conspirators who were all caught and all but one was executed. Even the boy who coincidentally (not knowing of the plot) held Booth’s horse in the alley was sentenced to 8 years hard labor!
On Tuesday 5/17/11, we returned to the Newseum, this time also getting to see a 4-D (the seats moved!) …….. Following this we walked to the “Castle”, the Smithsonian Museum central office and information center, on the National Mall. The landscaping was unbelievable.
As we walked off to the next museum, we discovered John had left his (brand new) I-pad with 3g somewhere in the information center. We rushed back, searched various locations and were about to decide it was stolen, when someone found it and returned it to a security guard!! John gave that nice lady a big hug! He had put it down while taking a picture of this orchid display.
Then we were off to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, also set up by our Congressman’s office, for a small private tour of this facility, where money is MADE. This was very interesting, and we toured the four areas where the paper is first printed, checked, stamped with the seals, re-checked and serialized. We were told it wasn’t actually “money” until it had been received by the Federal Reserve, and the serial numbers entered into the computer. But we saw a stack of printed bills, about chest high, which represented $64,000,000!! And in the shop you could buy shredded dollars (bad printing jobs) for about $5.00 for a small bottle.