Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 30, 2013
J. Edgar Hoover Building

J. Edgar Hoover Building

September 30, 1975: President Gerald Ford officially dedicates the J. Edgar Hoover Building. The building is located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. It is the national headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It was named for the former director of the Bureau. From 1975 to 1999, guided tours were available to the public. They have been discontinued. The FBI headquarters had previously been located in the Department of Justice Building. Designs were finalized in 1964 and construction began in 1967. The new name was authorized on May 4, 1972 – two days after Hoover died.

The building is in the Brutalist architecture style and is often criticized. Brutalist style stems from the modernist architectural movement. The term comes from the French béton brut, or raw concrete. Buildings designed in the style contain repetitive angular geometries. The concrete often displays the wooden forms used for pouring. Buildings of this type are found around the world. The Washingtonian magazine has listed this building along with the Kennedy Center as structures they would like to see torn down.

The FBI came into being in 1908. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte and President Theodore Roosevelt worked together to create a new efficient and expert investigative service. Each state had domain over its own territory and when the country was smaller, it worked well. With crime crossing state lines, a new federal service was needed – but controversial. The corps of Special Agents had no name and only the Attorney General to answer to. The Department of Justice also saw a need for an investigative force. On July 26, 1908 Bonaparte ordered ten agents to report directly to Chief Examiner Stanley W. Finch, the beginning of the FBI.

Today, the FBI has 56 field offices in major cities throughout the US and Puerto Rico. These field offices are further subdivided into smaller resident agencies. There are over 400 resident agencies as well as 50+ international offices in US embassies around the world. There are nearly 31,000 employees for the government controlled agency. Their 2007 budget was $6.4 billion. Robert S. Mueller, III has been the Director since 2001. The FBI’s investigative priorities are responsive to the needs of the country and have shifted over time.

“Agents need to be free to pursue investigations in ways that they haven’t. There have been restraints that a reformed FBI needs to make sure we don’t impose.” – John Ashcroft

“And so every one of us in the FBI, I don’t care if it’s a file clerk someplace or an agent there or a computer specialist, understands that our main mission is to protect the public from another September 11, another terrorist attack.” – Robert Mueller

“Good FBI officers are not noticeable. You would never look at them.” – Ridley Scott

“Just the minute the FBI begins making recommendations on what should be done with its information, it becomes a Gestapo.” – J. Edgar Hoover

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: J. Edgar Hoover was the first director of the FBI and held the post from its inception until his death in 1972. He served under six Presidents beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt and ending with Richard Nixon. Truman accused Hoover of turning the FBI into his private police force. Hoover’s largest concern was the spread of Communism. Although he did spend time with controlling gangsters and the Mafia, he was far more concerned with the Red Menace. He fought against any restraints placed by any outside force, including the Supreme Court, and would deliberately and secretly ignore any rule he didn’t like. COINTELPRO was his chief area of concern and was often working directly outside the law but to Hoover’s specifications.

Also on this day: Meet the Flintstones – In 1960, The Flintstones come to prime time television.
Farm Work – In 1962, the first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association too place.
Magic – In 1791, The Magic Flute premiered.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 26, 2012

Federal Bureau of Investigation seal

July 26, 1908: The Bureau of Investigation (BOI or BI) is formed. In 1886 the case of Wabash, St. Louis, & Pacific Railway Company v. Illinois was decided by the Supreme Court. They passed down the decision giving states no power to regulate interstate commerce. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 made it a federal responsibility to control commerce between state entities. The Justice Department hired a few men to investigate and enforce the law. Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte got cooperation from other federal agencies such as the Secret Service. However, staffing shortages remained.

Bonaparte began a separate investigative team – the Bureau of Investigation and staffed it with special agents. Twelve men from the Secret Service became the first BOI agents. The Mann Act was passed in 1910 and was concerned with “White Slave Traffic” or prostitutes being forced to work against their wills and transported across state lines for “immoral acts”. The law was written in ambiguous language and was used to discredit many men who were simply in the company of the “wrong women” and harassed. However, the BOI’s first task was to survey houses of prostitution.

In 1932 the BOI was renamed to the United States Bureau of Investigation and the following year it was linked to the Bureau of Prohibition and renamed the Division of Investigation (DOI). The entity finally became independent of the Department of Justice in 1935 and was granted one more name change to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The director of the BOI followed along with all the name changes. J. Edgar Hoover was the first FBI Director and served for 48 years in total, across all the different nomenclatures. After his death, tenure was reduced to a maximum of ten years.

Today, the FBI is an agency of the US Department of Justice serving as both a federal criminal investigative body and internal intelligence agency. They have jurisdiction concerning more than 200 categories of federal crimes. Their office is headquartered in the spectacularly ugly J. Edgar Hoover building located in Washington, DC. They also have 56 field offices and more than 400 resident agencies in the US and over 50 international offices. They have 35,437 employees and a $7.9 billion budget (2011 figure).

We are a fact-gathering organization only. We don’t clear anybody. We don’t condemn anybody.

Just the minute the FBI begins making recommendations on what should be done with its information, it becomes a Gestapo.

The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists.

Truth telling, I have found, is the key to responsible citizenship. The thousands of criminals I have seen in 40 years of law enforcement have had one thing in common: every single one was a liar. – all from J. Edgar Hoover

Also on this day:

The Polite Bandit – In 1875, a strange, but polite, man commits his first robbery
First Railway – In 1803, Surrey Iron Railway opened.
As the Worm Turns – In 1989, Robert Morris was indicted.

J. Edgar Hoover

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 10, 2012

J. Edgar Hoover

May 10, 1924: John Edgar Hoover becomes the 6th Director of the Bureau of Investigation. Hoover was born in 1895 and was 29 when he rose to the directorship. He got a law degree from The George Washington University in 1917 and during his schooling became interested in Anthony Comstock, a New York City US Postal Inspector famous for campaigns against fraud and vice. After graduation and during World War I, Hoover began working for the Justice Department. He was quickly promoted and in 1921 he joined the Bureau of Investigation as a deputy head. He was made acting director when William Buns was removed after allegations of being involved in the Teapot Dome scandal.

Calvin Coolidge appointed Hoover to the director job when the Bureau had about 650 employees, 441 of them Special Agents. In the early 1930s a series of bank robberies were carried out by numerous gangs throughout the Midwest. The banks were not held in the highest esteem and many of the criminals were thought of as Robin Hoods in America. This was especially true if the robbers also destroyed debt records as they carried out their robberies. John Dillinger was treated as a hero in the press. As bandits crossed state lines, a national resource was needed to track them.

By the end of the 1930s with the Bureau’s powers broadening, the agency was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They kept Hoover in the leadership role. He not only led the newly named organization, he further expanded it by increasing recruitment and creating the FBI Laboratory, used to examine evidence. Hoover remained the head of the FBI until his death in 1972, having served under eight Presidents.

Today, the FBI employs 35,664 people with 13,412 of them serving as Special Agents and 20,420 support professionals working as intelligence analysts, language specialists, and other specialists. Their annual budget is $7.9 billion and today they are led by Robert S. Mueller who became Director in 2001. The national headquarters is located in Washington, D.C. and is named for Hoover. The agents hired today must meet rigorous standards before being assigned to any of more than 400 resident agencies or more than 50 international offices.

Banks are an almost irresistible attraction for that element of our society which seeks unearned money.

No amount of law enforcement can solve a problem that goes back to the family.

The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists.

Justice is incidental to law and order. – all from J. Edgar Hoover

Also on this day:

I Think I Can – In 1869 the First US Transcontinental Railroad is completed.
Before Hillary – In 1872, Victoria Woodhull was nominated to run for the US Presidency.
Longest Bridge in the World – In 1969, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened.