Historical Highlights

The annual Easter egg roll at the Capitol

April 21, 1876
The annual Easter egg roll at the Capitol Image courtesy of Library of Congress Elected to 16 terms in the House of Representatives, William Holman of Indiana served as chairman of four different committees: Appropriations, Public Buildings and Grounds, Public Lands, and Indian Affairs.
On this date, the House of Representatives passed the Turf Protection Law, which effectively ended the traditional Easter Monday egg roll at the Capitol. Local schools closed each year on the day after Easter to allow children “to ramble at will on the fresh green grass” at the Capitol. The informal festivities—of unknown origin but dating back to at least 1872—featured neighborhood children rolling eggs down the grassy embankments of the Capitol and picnicking on the grounds. Although a popular annual event among area families, torn sod, caused in part by children rolling down the hill after their eggs, led to congressional action to protect the landscape. Congressman William Steele Holman of Indiana, chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, spearheaded an effort in the House to pass legislation “to prevent any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as play-grounds or otherwise, so far as may be necessary to protect the public property, turf, and grass from destruction and injury.” The Capitol Police issued a warning that it would enforce the new law to keep people off the grass for the annual holiday celebration. However, President Rutherford B. Hayes kept the tradition alive by inviting children to the White House lawn for the Easter egg roll in 1878. The Capitol egg rolling lingered for a few years after the passage of the Turf Protection Law, though new construction and scheduled improvements to the Capitol grounds reduced the open space necessary for the event, ending this practice entirely.

Related Highlight Subjects