Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another Cane Beating, This Time By a Cave Dweller

“Not many huge fortunes were ever made in Washington, but a great many made elsewhere were spent there” – David Brinkley

With social status depending on presidential administrations, appointments, and elections, Washington Society has never been conducive toward an “Old-money” crowd. That said, someone had to build the city, and though they are an elusive and restrictive bunch, I’ve found them.

Known as the “Cave Dwellers” due to their invisibility around town, these permanent establishment types made their homes in the Kalorama neighborhood of northwest DC. It was an isolated neighborhood; residents had their chauffeurs take them around town and their children attended private schools. When we see street signs in DC, it’s these characters for which they are named. Many of the Cave Dwellers descended from the original families in the area, dating back to 1634. DC was on their land, and they considered themselves to be caretakers of the federal government and the nation by extension.

Long used to having a say in government, President of the Riggs National Bank Charles Glover—of the Glover Park Glovers—used to walk across Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss financial affairs with the Secretary of the Treasury. Truth be told, he was such a common sight that the Secretary gave him a desk in the building. In 1915 a new comptroller ordered the desk removed, believing it bad federal policy for a private banker to have a personal desk at the Treasury building. This did not go over well with Charles Glover, who walked up to the comptroller and hit him on the head with his cane.

The event signaled the removal of Cave Dwellers from government affairs. The final nail in the coffin was the arrival of FDRs New Dealers, seen as young, idealistic, academic, social workers, guilty of wearing the wrong colored shoe at dinner. The Washington families wanted nothing to do with the “communist” New Dealers, and in turn the New Dealers were happy to avoid the “fascist” Cave Dwellers. Oh sure, the Cave Dwellers could still be seen at the Metropolitan or the Chevy Chase Country Club, but after the 30s, the Cave Dwellers mainly kept to themselves. And from what I hear, they still do. But then, I can’t say I’ve ever seen them.

And on a final note I'd like to ask what is it with Washingtonians and politicians hitting each other with canes in this city? I probably should have posted this under the Duel of the Month Club...

Sources: David Brinkley, Washington Goes to War.

Gregor Dallas,

Randall Bennett Woods,
Fullbright: A Biography.


  1. maybe the choice of weapon has to do with the weather. like, its a good sturdy hard stick in the winter, and in the summer the wood cane expands, there could be splintering and such...making it a very formidable weapon indeed.
    there's also that thing of dueling being illegal in the city, so why carry a gun if it couldn't be used?

  2. Not able to carry a gun in DC? Balderdash!