Summer Brown Bag Lectures

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society is pleased to announce two upcoming brown bag lectures covering Capitol-related topics that span a century of history.

On Wednesday, June 19, Debra Hanson (Virginia Commonwealth University) will present “Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, and the ‘Culture Wars’ of the 1820s” in Ketchum Hall at 200 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

On Wednesday, July 17, Nancy Sheppard (author and editor) will offer “Airship ROMA: A Forgotten Tragedy” at the National Churchill Library and Center (NCLC), First Level, 2130 H St NW, Washington, DC 20052.

Both talks will be from noon to 1 pm. These events are free and open to the public.



Conflict of Daniel Boone and the Indians, 1773 is a bas-relief in the Capitol Rotunda.
Conflict of Daniel Boone and the Indians, 1773 is a bas-relief in the Capitol Rotunda. Courtesy Architect of the Capitol.

In the course of his lifetime, and in the wake of his death in 1820, Daniel Boone joined a select group of Americans elevated to the status of a national hero in the early republic. At the same time, the nature, meanings, and legacy of his life and adventures were widely disputed. Using images of Boone produced in the 1820s—including the “Conflict of Daniel Boone and the Indians” bas-relief located in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda—as key evidence, this presentation will examine the contested legacy of the frontiersman in relation to Andrew Jackson’s rise to power, issues pertaining to continental and commercial expansion, and the contentious debate over “how the new American republic was to respond…to the indigenous peoples who possessed prior claim to the land.”

Presenter Debra Hanson is an art historian specializing in American art, architecture, and visual culture of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. She currently teaches Art History at VCU’s Middle Eastern campus in Doha, Qatar. Hanson has been awarded numerous fellowships from the U.S. Capitol Historical Society to conduct research at the Capitol. She has written and presented extensively on the intersections of art, architectural space, politics, and historical narrative within the Capitol.

In March 1921, Maj. John G. Thornell and his crew were detailed to Italy to procure a new experimental airship for the U.S. Army Air Service that was to be stationed out of Langley Field, Virginia. With the enthusiastic support of the U.S. Congress to highlight not only lighter-than-air development, but also our continued friendship with the Italian crown, ROMA was celebrated as the shining gem of America’s dirigible fleet. However, fraught with troubles, ROMA never lived up to expectations. On February 21, 1922, she barreled towards the ground and exploded in an incredible conflagration, claiming the lives of the majority of the officers, crew, and civilians on board. This was the single deadliest disaster of a U.S. hydrogen airship. Congress waged an extensive investigation to find out what happened to ROMA and how it could prevent another disaster of its kind. But with anger raging towards the unnecessary loss of life, Congress was unfairly vilified in the aftermath. Once the investigation concluded, the War Department buried the stories of ROMA and her crew, leaving their memory and sacrifice in the line of duty virtually erased from history.



Nancy Sheppard
Nancy Sheppard

Author & historian Nancy E. Sheppard is a two-time award nominated non-fiction author, historian, and public speaker based out of southeastern Virginia. She has devoted her career to telling the forgotten tales of her home region as well as those in military history. Aside from her work as an author and historian, she is the editor-in-chief and photojournalist for the Yorktown Crier-Poquoson Post and serves as a voting member of the York County Historical Committee.