The Park Bench Statesman: Bernard Baruch

Sometimes those old guys sitting in the park are worth listening to their advice.

Bernard Baruch became wealthy by 1900 speculating in sugar futures on Wall Street. The son of a surgeon that served on Robert E. Lee’s staff during the Civil War, Baruch was considered a kingpin in New York financial circles.

Baruch became President Woodrow Wilson’s advisor on national defense in 1916 and later led U.S. economic moves during World War I. Baruch later advised President Franklin Delano Roosevelt over coordinating private and public financial moves in World War II and was part of the “Brain Trust” during the New Deal.

But the real interesting part of Baruch during his Washington days was a passion for discussing politics from a bench in Lafayette Park next to the Andrew Jackson statue and a short walk to the White House. In 1960, the Boy Scouts honored Baruch with a commemorative bench at his favorite spot. Today, passersby still use the bench. Baruch died in 1965 at age 94.

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POTUS, FLOTUS favorite drinks



Martha Washington – Citrus punch cocktail: 9 oz. Flor de Caña 4-Year-Old Gold Rum, 12 oz.

Appleton Estate Extra 12-Year-Old Rum, 6 oz. Grand Marnier, 9 oz. fresh lemon juice, 9 oz. fresh orange juice, 9 oz. Spiced simple syrup, 6 oz. Club soda.


Julia Tyler – champagne punch

Julia Grant — “Roman Punch” of champagne, brandy and rum
Helen “Nellie” Taft — lager beer and champagne cocktail


Rosalynn Carter, Ida McKinley (red)


Dolley Madison – whiskey punch

Hillary Clinton – shot of Crown Royal


Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower


Pat Nixon and Michelle Obama – straight up

Hillary Clinton –Tito’s vodka martini with olive


Abigail Adams — rum cider toddy
Jacqueline Kennedy — lime daiquiri
Edith Wilson — “Virginia Gentleman” bourbon on the rocks

Florence Harding —  scotch and soda

Barbara Bush – Gin


Elizabeth Monroe, Rachel Jackson, Hannah Van Buren, Anna Harrison, Sarah Polk, Margaret Taylor, Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, Mary Lincoln, Eliza Johnson, “Lemonade Lucy” Hayes, Ellen Arthur, Frances Cleveland, Edith Roosevelt, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford (Became sober, founded Betty Ford Clinic), Laura Bush, Melania Trump, Jill Biden.



George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, James Buchanan (rye), Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson (Scotch), Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower (Scotch), Lyndon B. Johnson (Cutty Shark Scotch and soda), U.S. Grant.

William McKinley: “McKinley’s Delight” 3 oz. rye whiskey of 100 proof, 1 oz. sweet vermouth, 2 dashes of cherry brandy, 1 dash absinthe

Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Bermuda Rum Swizzle” is 2 oz. dark rum, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 oz. orange juice, generous ash of Falernum


John Adams, William Henry Harrison

Bill Clinton: “Snakebite” is 8 oz. hard cider, 8 oz. lager beer, ¼ oz. black currant liqueur.


Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams both liked French Madeira wine.


James Madison, James Monroe, U.S. Grant, Chester A. Arthur, William Howard Taft


James Garfield, Grover Cleveland


Calvin Coolidge: “Coolidge Cooler” is 1.5 oz. of Vermont White vodka, ½ oz. of American whiskey, 2 oz. of orange juice, club soda.

Ronald Reagan: “Orange Blossom Special” is 1 oz. of vodka, 1 oz. of grenadine or sweet vermouth, 2 oz. fresh orange juice, served over ice.


Herbert Hoover (Dry), Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush (vodka martini), Barrack Obama


Franklin Pierce – Drank everything. Died of cirrhosis of the liver

Harry Truman (Old Fashioned), John F. Kennedy (Bloody Mary), Richard Nixon (Chateau Laffite Rothschild champagne), Teddy Roosevelt (mint julep), James Polk (Brandy), Rutherford B. Hayes (rum), Jimmy Carter (white), Ronald Reagan (California white wine)


Abe Lincoln, Benjamin Harrison, George W. Bush, Donald Trump (Diet Coke), Joe Biden (orange Gatorade.)

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George Washington and Purple Heart

Purple HeartThere’s a marker just a few yards left to the entrance into Mount Vernon that is often overlooked but a pretty cool remembrance of history.

George Washington wasn’t allowed by the Continental Congress to promote Revolutionary War soldiers based on merit. But, Washington found a way around it, establishing the Badge of Military Merit on Aug. 7, 1782.

According to The Purple Heart “… The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit directs whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding.”

While a number of badges were awarded, the only three known recipients were
Sergeant Elijah Churchill, 2nd Continental Dragoons; Sergeant William Brown, 5th and Sergeant Daniel Bissel, 2nd Connecticut Continental Line Infantry.

The award was discontinued after the war, but Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing created the Purple Heart in 1932 in General Order No. 3 to honor the bicentennial of Washington’s birth.

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Wandering around Arlington National Cemetery

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U.S. Botanic Gardens more than a greenhouse

One of the joys of becoming a tour guide is stopping at places I’ve driven past a million times.

High on the list is the U.S. Botanic Garden on 1st and Maryland Ave. S.W. on the footstep of the U.S. Capitol. I just figured it was some small green house and not worth stopping.

I was wrong. As usual.

I stopped by on a Saturday and it was pretty crowded with families looking for a low-stress activity. Something you can just walk around and combine with other places.

George Washington wanted a botanic garden in the new capitol city showing the importance of plants. The mission has more than succeeded.

The conservatory has world deserts with some pretty wild looking cactus. They look like that could jump up and grab you. The children’s garden lets kids burn off some energy. The Garden Primeval smells like the beginning of time with high humidity for ferns and ancient plants from 150 million years ago. The Jungle is a tropical rainforest where you can climb to a second level for a better overall view. The orchid room has more than 5,000 varieties with 200 on display.

There are replicas of major monuments and buildings scattered throughout that kids especially love at Christmastime. It’s a good chance for a pop quiz on what they’ve seen already around town.

Overall, it’s free admission, easy to get in and out and you can stay however long you like. The Botanic Garden is easy on the eyes and a mental break from so much history around town.

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Grading Washington’s attractions

Lincoln A+

Capitol A (when open)

Arlington National A

Mount Vernon A

National Cathedral A

Museum of Bible A


National Archives B+

Vietnam Memorial B+

White House B

Jefferson B


World War II B

Korean Memorial B

Smithsonians B

World War I C+

Ike C

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Lily Pond: art for art’s sake, I guess

On this site was the first water to be piped through the streets for city residents.

I’ll let you have a moment to absorb all that.

The Lily Pond in John Marshall Park at 4th and C Sts. N.W. by the Canadian embassy is one of the silliest things. Indeed, it commemorates the city spring first used as a water source, hence the life-sized lily pads, frogs, turtles, fish and dragon flies.

Part of a 1983 makeover of the park, the Lily Pond is 2 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter. The granite and bronze fountain designed by American artist David Phillips makes a fine place to rest.

I guess it’s art for art’s sake . . . or for pete’s sake.

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Cenotaphs define Congressional Cemetery

They hit you right away. Amid the acres of graves, the rows of cenotaphs made me say, “What the . . . “

(And shame on you with dirty minds even if you guessed right.)

Congressional Cemetery has 168 nearly identical cenotaphs remembering or marking the graves of deceased congressmen and senators. Perfect rows of Aquia sandstone just like the White House and U.S. Capitol.

A cenotaph is Greek for empty tomb, but can also be the initial tomb for someone later interred elsewhere. It can also serve as a marker for someone whose buried elsewhere or cremated.

However, some congressmen are buried under a cenotaph while others are elsewhere in the cemetery like James Gillespie. There’s a cenotaph for every congressman who died in office from 1833-76 beginning with James Lent.

Cenotaphs were no longer used in 1876 when Massachusetts Sen. Geporge Hoar said, “the thought of being buried beneath one of those atrocities brought new terror to death.”

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Wordless Wednesday: U.S. Capitol Dome

U. S. Capitol

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Bugler welcomes visitors to Arlington National Cemetery

ANC buglerThe first makeover of the Arlington National Cemetery welcome center in 20 years included six large murals of scenes around the cemetery. However, the centerpiece of the room is a Taps bugler patterned after Staff Sgt. Jesse Tubb of South Lake Tahoe, Calif. who’s part of the U.S. Army Band. The lifesized model shows Tubbs playing the song performed throughout Arlington during funerals.

Nearby are murals depicting the 1963 funeral procession of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, space shuttle Challenger Memorial, history of Arlington House, Freedman’s Village, the cemetery’s history and funeral processions.

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Happy 11th anniversary to . . . me

The upside of 2021 was some tourism in Washington versus zero for me in 2020. But, it was still a rough year for guides walking and talking the streets of the nation’s capital.

I went 18 months overall without touring before finally leading one in June. A small part of that break was simply not wanting to tour while the Covid virus raged. Walking the streets of Washington some days felt like the rapture occurred and left me behind. It was creepy, though I could find a parking space on the street. It wasn’t until October that the city started feeling alive and it only lasted about six weeks before Thanksgiving and cooler weather not to mention another Covid surge shut down the city once more.

I managed 14 tours, mostly in the fall, to remember why I love being a guide in walking the streets, telling tales of my hometown. I just wish it happened a little more.

As for my blog, I finished an 11th year of talking monuments, memorials and more. Not a bad run so far. I pivoted some to video because I’ve started a Rick Snider’s Washington channel on YouTube. Mostly sports, but some tourism that people like as well. Check it out.

Overall, more than 14,000 people visited the website in 2021. That’s 4,000 more than 2020, but about 4,000 less than most pre-pandemic years.

For the second straight year, my list of 101 Smithsonian must sees was the most read post, garnering about 40 percent of all page views. The leader for eight years – rocks atop stones at Arlington National Cemetery – slipped to fifth overall. I limited viewers to U.S. and Canada after European hackers tried to steal the site. The most viewers came from Virginia and then Washington, D.C. as expected, but Maryland slipped to fourth behind California.

What will I miss about 2021? Absolutely nothing. But, I look forward to 2022. Happy New Year. Good health to us all.

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DAR Christmas tree

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New aquatics center opens

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Merry Christmas

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National Christmas Tree

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The German POW in Arlington National Cemetery

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Early Christmas message from Santa

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Christmas comes to Nationals Park

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The coolest memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

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Henry Rathbone’s house – the man next to Lincoln


The White House isn’t the only house to walk by the front door around Lafayette Park. A famous bystander to history is a few doors down.

Major Henry Rathbone was in Abraham Lincoln’s box when murdered by John Wilkes Booth. His home is 712 Jackson Place on the western side of the park and near a fountain. The black door and red brick exterior seem fitting with the street that is now mostly government buildings, including Rathbone’s.

The story goes that Lincoln was going to see “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater with Gen. Grant and his wife. But, Mrs. Grant was known to dislike Mrs. Lincoln as many society ladies did. Rathbone was supposedly Lincoln’s seventh choice as others begged off that day while Washington celebrated Lee’s surrender and virtual end of the war. Mrs. Lincoln liked Clara Harris, step sister and fiancee of Rathbone, a son of a wealthy New York merchant. Harris stayed with Mary Lincoln throughout the night as Lincoln lay dying.

Harris and Rathbone weren’t blood related as their parents married after both children were adults. Rathbone and Harris married in 1867 with three children, including future U.S. Congressman from Illinois Henry Riggs Rathbone.

Rathbone was later named U.S. consul to Hanover, Germany where he shot and stabbed his wife to death in 1883. Rathbone spent the rest of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane in Germany. After dying in 1911, Rathbone was buried by his wife in Hanover. However, in 1952 cemetery officials decided there was no family interest in the graves and had the pair exhumed, cremated and poured into the river together.

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