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Friday, September 10, 2010

"Lobbyists" at the Willard Hotel

Located two blocks from the White House, the Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, as legend has it, is where the term "lobbyist" was coined.  The word "lobby" can be found back as far as the early 1500's and in the Oxford English Dictionary in the early 1800's.

In 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant, leader of the Union Army, would often relax in the hotel's lobby, drinking brandy, and smoking cigars.  Agents aligned with 'private interest groups' would often approach General Grant seeking special favors.  The Willard Hotel legend claims that General Grant himself called these private interest agents who lingered in the hotel's lobby, "lobbyists".

The Willard is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and, in addition to General Grant, has hosted many dignitaries including, to name a few:  U.S. Presidents since 1850, Julia Ward Howe who wrote the lyrics for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", General Tom Thumb and his bride, Martin Luther King (who worked on his "I Have a Dream" speech), Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens.

There is a wealth of information available online about the history of the Willard Hotel.  The National Park Service has a wonderful synopsis at their website NPS U.S. National Register of Historic Places

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