When the Washington Easter egg roll was chaos

The celebration of 1876 drew an unusually boisterous crowd, with a reporter for the National Republican describing the Capitol grounds as “thronged with lads and lassies, aye, and many older heads congregated to witness the pranks and capers of the boys and girls in rolling the eggs from the crest of the hill to the lawn below.” Poorly timed morning rainfall that year “had the effect of dampening the grass somewhat,” but could not deter the stampede of tiny feet sprinting across the soggy lawns.

The next day lawmakers arrived at the Capitol to a scene resembling an abandoned carnival ground. Little bits of eggshells covered everything. Spoiled hard-boiled eggs attracted opportunistic birds and bugs. But worst off was the grass: The thousands of tiny foot prints had torn up the muddy lawn more effectively than a tractor.

Morrill was incensed and began drafting legislation the very same day.

“I suppose the great pleasure of seeing ten thousand children here on Easter Monday has prevented the police from doing their duty,” Morrill lamented on the Senate floor. “Although it is a very great pleasure to see these children enjoying themselves here on Easter Monday, it is deemed important that we should protect the grounds.”