Glen Echo War on Diplomats

Town Marshall, Charles Collins, ticketing a car along Conduit Road (MacArthur Boulevard). Note the 12MPH limit. ca. 1907
Town Marshall, Charles Collins, ticketing a car along Conduit Road (MacArthur Boulevard). Note the 12MPH limit.
ca. 1907

Source: Glen Echo-Cabin John History

This is a terrific email that I received from a GoDCer earlier this week. Getting emails like this always makes my day, so please keep sending them (especially if you have a great story to share). He’s writing in response to a post about the Glen Echo speed limit, which was six miles per hour!

Dear Ghost,

You have no idea how entertaining a consequence that six-mile-an-hour speed limit had. My great-grandfather, John Ashton Garrett, the “boy mayor” of Glen Echo, apparently went to the mat against the State Department defending one of his marshals, Charles P. Collins, who had the habit of firing his revolver (however inaccurately) in the direction of speeders unwilling to obey his orders, shouted from a moving bicycle, to stop. The cases in which this caused problems with State were when the speeders were foreign diplomats blithely ignoring the law under a claim of diplomatic immunity and raising hell at Foggy Bottom. So you had Glen Echo firing on, if I recall right, the Ambassador to Italy, among others.

Here is the one bit I have in my possession at the moment introducing this opera bouffe, from May 1907, when Marshal Collins fired upon the limo of the second secretary of the German Embassy, Wilhelm von Radowitz. The Glen Echo war on diplomats actually precipitated an international incident of a small and ludicrous nature.

Apparently the State Department was seriously involved, and I seem to remember reading a story about the War Department potentially moving in troops on the Conduit Road to assert federal authority, before President Taft backed down, but I’m not sure if that was actually in the cards or if it was just to sell newspapers.

I know there exist a bunch more stories on this—I seem to recall having seen the ones in the Frederick paper and one in The New York Times (!). I have a vague memory that the Italian Ambassador may also have been busted and claimed diplomatic immunity. (Apparently the mayor of Jersey City also fell afoul of the diligent sentinels of Glen Echo).

John Ashton Garrett was eventually a state’s attorney for Maryland who was arrested and jail while in office for a variety of felonies, only to be later completely pardoned and ostensibly exonerated. Family scuttlebutt had it that was all intra-Democratic Party skulduggery, with various Blairs coming down on each side. But I know very little about that end of his career, other than the misery it brought upon his wife and daughters.

Anyway, as you apparently have access to the Post’s back issues, you might want to do a bit on this, as it was all pretty hilarious and written up at great length.

Best regards (and don’t speed on MacArthur Boulevard—you never know if the ghost of Marshal Collins lurks…),


About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Arlington Resident

    Don’t speed on McArthur Blvd because the ghost of Marshall Collins lives on in the form of revenue generating branch of the DC Police and their ‘undercover’ speed trap vehicles! 😉

  • How exactly in 1907 did the police determine how fast the cars were going?

    • infinitebuffalo

      From the article quoted in the other piece:

      “The mayor and council have appointed Messrs. Joseph Fowler and Louis F. Harbert as town marshals to especially look after the enforcement of this law. They will be mounted on bicycles and will have speed indicators on their machines.”