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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Fill In the Blanks: 1931

Fill In the Blanks: 1931

UPDATE: The photo now has a caption.

Signs the president's name. Mrs. Leafie E. Dietz, recently appointed the "Secretary to Sign Land Patents," a position in the Government Land Office which, since its creation under President Arthur, has been held only by women. She signs "Herbert Hoover" to land patents and is the only person who has authority to sign the President's name.

Washington circa 1930. The document at hand in this unlabeled Harris & Ewing negative is a form ready for the signature of Herbert Hoover. Perhaps someone versed in bureaucratic history will recognize this lady. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Petworth Lady

Washington Post, May 25, 1954.

Mrs. Dietz Dies; Worked at Interior

Mrs. Leafie E. Dietz, 78, who put the signatures of two presidents to homestead land grants as part of her job at the Interior Department, died yesterday at the Washington Sanitarium. She lived at 8424 Queen Anne's dr., Silver Spring.

After her husband, George C. Dietz, an Interior Department lawyer, died in 1929, Mrs. Dietz was appointed a clerk in the General Land Office of the Interior Department. There she was legally empowered to sign land patents for homesteaders with Presidential signatures. She served under Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Mrs. Dietz, who retired in 1944, moved to Washington in 1918. She was a native of Keokuk, Iowa, and was married in Silver Cliff, Colo., in 1895 during a silver rush there.

Active in the the Order of the Eastern Star, she helped found the Joppa Lodge Chapter in Petworth. She was a member of the Petworth Women's Club and the Petworth Methodist church.

Surviving are two sons, John E. Dietz of 9143 Sligo Creek parkway, Silver Spring, and Joseph M. Dietz, of Harrisonburg, Va.; one daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Trautman, of 8424 Queen Anne's dr., Silver Spring; three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. …


Wow, jordannelson, that's an amazing piece of sleuthing. Good thing Mrs. Dietz has long departed this vale of tears, or Mr. Dietz might accuse you of stalking his wife.

Her name is Leafie E. Dietz

After a fun little search these past couple of hours, I've discovered her identity. It is Leafie E. Dietz, designated by President Hoover in 1931 to sign land patents, by Executive Order 5529.

This photograph shows the preparation of a land patent granted to Janie Furr, for 640 acres of land in two sections (8 and 17) in Grant County, New Mexico, dated Jan. 21, 1931.

The most exciting part was the hunt! I work in land administration, so I immediately recognized the document as a patent or similar document.

I rotated the image and messed with the contrast to try and read the document. I immediately recognized a chunk of the writing as a legal description. At first, I couldn't make out much, but after recognizing the words "New Mexico Meridian" (23rd Meridian) and "six hundred forty acres", I was able to discern the township and range: T16S R15W (or "Township sixteen south of Range fifteen west" as it is written on the patent). From there, I did a simple search of the BLM's land documents using the legal description, which pulled the original patent (fully filled out by that point!) image with matching description! (attached below, original accession # 1043289).

Stupidly, I did not look down at the signature block, and attempted to locate the identity of this woman through a search of the congressional registry for 1931. After searching the GLO's employees, as well as the executive office's employees (thanks to the hint from Dave's comment), I was not able to find anything further...until...

I took another look at the patent, and voila! How blind could I be?! There, under "Herbert Hoover"'s signature, is the notation "By Leafie E. Dietz, Secretary." It's her!

A quick Google search turns up the executive order by Pres. Hoover designating her to sign land patents, and also some results regarding her involvement with the Order of the Eastern Star (in Colorado, apparently), as hinted by her ring.

A search on returns census records, indicating she was born in Iowa about 1878 (making her about 53 in this photo), and the 1920 and 1930 censuses show she lived in Washington, D.C. The 1920 census lists Joseph, Dorothy and John as children (22, 16 and 14 respectively). Interestingly, it also shows George working as a law clerk in the Land Office, but Leafie with no occupation. She must have started the position after the children were grown, perhaps hearing of the opening through her husband. Joseph is listed as a stenographer.

Also see the image below of a snippet from the New York Sun, (Jan. 13, 1931, only days before the Shorpy photo above!) highlighting her new post.

A fun way to pass a couple of hours! I love research/genealogy (and land records!). I'm glad I found this site!!

Pot Marigold

The flowers appear to be the common calendula officianalis, or the more common name of pot marigold. A popular cut flower back in the day, it has the unusual characteristic of sleeping, or folding up at night time. Much used in present day lotions and fragrances.

The Mysterious Cylinders

The Land Office probably trafficked in large documents -- maps and such. The cylinders might have to do with storing, transmitting or duplicating them. They look too long to be dictation cylinders or radio batteries.

Re: Cylinders?

My first thought, as well, but aren't they awfully long canisters? The required bend radius in the pneumatic lines would be huge!

Soil samples

Since this is a land management office, the tubes might well be soil sample cores. Contemporary tubes are a similar size and shape.

[The Land Office didn't have anything to do with dirt. - Dave]


Could they be for sending messages through a pneumatic tubing system?

Job Description

The document is a form of the General Land Office, predecessor to the Bureau of Land Management; the lady is authorized to sign the President's name as described in a caption accompanying a 1937 Harris & Ewing photo of another lady in what may be the same room:

Signs president's name. Washington, D.C., Sept. 8. Affixing the signature "Franklin D. Roosevelt" to land grants and patents, Jeanne [...], 20, is getting a great thrill out of her new [...]h the General Land Office. As "Secretary to the President [...]ning Land Grants and Patents," she is the only [...] authorized to sign the president's signature to documents. She is the youngest person ever appointed to the position. 9/8/37

Not an Ordinary Worker Bee

Well dressed, with a fat engagement/wedding ring combo and what looks like an Order of the Eastern Star ring.


What are the tall cylindrical objects against the wall? If we could identify them it might give us a clue as to what department she works in. The labels on them are far too out of focus to read.

A woman before her time?

It looks like she was married and had a successful career, too!

Difficult Job

Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for a woman in those days to be part of the White House staff? I love her glasses and her very direct, no nonsense look. There is a small star on her ring. I imagine someone will recognize its significance.

Possible identification

I'm not sure, but I think that might be Ed Wynn.

I bet those flowers wilted

The moment she sat next to them.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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