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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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The Belles of Belcourt: 1918

The Belles of Belcourt: 1918

Vermont wedding? Not quite. "Belcourt Seminary graduating class." The Washington, D.C., girls' finishing school circa 1918. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

In Five Years

They will have bobbed their hair and be showing their rouged knees. Shocking!

Career Move

The next time we see the fifth girl from the left, she is dressed in black and yelling "I'll get you my pretty!"

Lily of the Valley

Beautiful bouquets of Lily of the Valley.
Brings back sweet memories of growing up back East.
Sadly, they will not grow here in California as they need a cold winter and a layer of snow.

Women's School Capital

Washington, DC had several schools of this sort. I'm guessing this was because wealthy families of the era felt it was necessary to have a home in the nation's capital. Sending a daughter to a finishing school there was not only convenient, but introduced her to the city's society -- a big plus for a family with social aspirations.

The Depression closed many of them, but the final blow came with World War II when women's schools were taken over by the military. A good example is Forest Glen Seminary, which was an annex to Walter Reed Hospital for several decades before being rehabbed as apartments and condos.

Hello Gorgeous!

The young miss the second from the right strongly resembles the young Barbra Streisand. Just an observation.

Bigger and better things

William and Mary Somervell opened Belcourt Seminary in 1909. Their son Brehon was in charge of building something rather larger and more enduring: the Pentagon.

Relatively little information about Belcourt Seminary exists online. It was located at 13th and Girard NW, but I wasn't able to find a specific address. Google Street View shows older apartment buildings on three of the corners of that intersection and a newer building on the fourth. As most of the online references are within a few years of the school's founding, I suspect it wasn't around for much longer after the date of this picture.


Does anyone know what kind of education young ladies like these received at a finishing school? What exactly was "finished?"

[Amazing what a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks will find. -tterrace]

I hope they kept those dresses!

Each dress is so unique and beautiful, I hope they are still tucked away in an attic somewhere -- the "unique" comment also applies to the hairdos in this picture too (but I wouldn't go so far as to say "beautiful" on this one, although I do like the Gibson-look of the girl on the far right).

The Young Lady On The Right

Granted, this is strictly an anecdotal comment. But the young lady on the right seems to have escaped the generalization I've noticed regarding photos of young women back in the day.


A wonderful thing. Hope each young lady had a Fancy Dress Ball of her own to attend.

History repeats

Looks surprisingly like my mother's graduating class in 1970. Similar long white dresses, large bouquets of flowers, and the same perfect 10.

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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