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We toured DC with a biker historian who knows all there is to know about first ladies


We toured DC with a biker historian who knows all there is to know about first ladies

WATCH |  From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, historian Andrew Och knows his stuff when it comes to our country's leading ladies. We hopped on the back of his Harley to learn more about the women behind DC's most iconic landmarks.

They don't call him 'The First Ladies Man' for nothing

Andrew Och is a historian who knows all there is to know about first ladies. He grew up around the Washington, DC area. "I’ve been going to the Smithsonian and hearing about politics for all my life," he said. But it wasn't until he worked on a C-SPAN series about first ladies that he became fascinated with these women. "I traveled around the country going to all the homes, museums, libraries, historical sites for every first lady. The stories and the women were so fascinating I just wanted to keep going."

First stop: The Capitol

We started our day on Capitol Hill, an iconic building symbolic of change. It's where Congress sits and where the big decisions are made.

It's also where the inauguration ceremony for the incoming first family takes place every four to eight years. The president and his wife formally introduce themselves to the country and the world at the Capitol. 

Second stop: The Washington Monument

Then, we made an about-face to the Washington Monument, which just so happens to have more significance behind it than just a cool place to snap pics.

It turns out, we might not have had a monument to take photos of were it not for First Lady Lucy Hayes who pressured her husband to finish construction on an incomplete Washington Monument after it was originally discontinued.

Hayes oversaw the monument's completion. It opened in 1888.

Third stop: The National Gallery of Art

We then headed over to the National Gallery of Art. Yet another popular museum that probably wouldn't have existed today were it not for a first lady. Harriet Lane, President James Buchanan's niece who acted as a first lady, donated her art collection to the gallery in 1903.

Her submission reawakened the Smithsonian's interest in art, which led to a legislation that officially constituted it as a "National Gallery of Art."

She was very attuned and very akin to culture and wanted a place for art to be displayed for the American people.
Andrew Och, historian

Fourth stop: The Museum of American History

First ladies are known for their iconic wardrobes. They are so iconic that the Museum of American History has an entire exhibit dedicated to the dresses worn by the likes of Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Helen Taft had the first dress in the exhibit and every first lady since then has put a gown or Inaugural gown in there for the exhibit.

Fifth stop: The White House

The White House is another iconic location and it's been the focal point of recent talks surrounding the new first lady and her living arrangements.

Melania Trump has said she won't be living in the White House for the first few months to take care of her son Barron as he finishes up school in New York. Is it a first that a first lady not live at the White House? Not exactly. Neither Anna Harrison nor Martha Washington lived in the White House during their husbands' presidencies. 

Melania is young and in good health so we'd think she should or would. If she does not, it won't be unprecedented, but it will be unusual.
Andrew Och, First Ladies historian

Sixth stop: The Octagon House

The last stop on the trip was at the Octagon House. It's a special museum, because it was the "White House" in 1814 after the British had burned down the original during the War of 1812.

First Lady Dolly Madison threw spectacular parties here, too. Guests would line up for her parties knowing she was a spectacular host. 

"In the Madison administration, you wanted to be at one of Dolly’s parties," he said. "In 1814 you wanted to be at the Octagon House."

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