A crowd gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on May 7, 1936, to watch local law enforcement attempt to take down a communist flag that a prankster hosted over the capitol sometime during the previous night. The guard detail assigned to watch the building and a large contingent of metropolitan police struggled for an hour and a half before calling on local firefighters, one of whom teetered atop an extension ladder to torch the offending hammer-and-sickle flag.
It was unknown how the flag had been raised, since a five-man detail was patrolling the area around the 80-foot flagpole throughout the night. Police deduced that the flag had been raised sometime between 4 and 4:20 a.m., and a local newspaper reported receiving a call from an unidentified man shortly after that time reporting that he had seen the flag and asking what it meant.
The halyards securing the flag had been expertly knotted and tangled, and a stone was attached to one of the halyards and hoisted up the pole, where it banged against the metal staff “making a din like a large and very mournful bell.” A copy of the Lampoon, Harvard University’s humor magazine, containing the article “Down With Capitalism” was left at the base of the pole. The government mounted a city-wide hunt for the prankster responsible, without success.