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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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Library Laundry: 1920

Library Laundry: 1920

Washington circa 1920. "Laundry at Library of Congress." Equipped with mangle and steam cabinet. 8x6 inch glass negative, National Photo Co. View full size.


Wall Drying Cabinets

The woman on the other side of the doorway may be hanging clothing to dry in a gas-powered drying cabinet.. These are sometimes found in old apartment buildings.

Hand Towels

Before the advent of paper towels and/or air dryers, there were actually cloth towels in lavatories - so nice, on so many levels - and my guess would be that's just what the laundresses at the LoC were responsible for, lots and lots of hand towels.


The grommets suggest to me, lavatory towels.

Makes you long for the pre-paper towel, hot air dryer - the days of common towels or better still - Roller Towels!

Okay, I'll bite

What kind of laundry needs to be done at the Library of Congress?
It appears to be of similar sizes, shapes and fabrics, so I'm thinking maybe the restaurant's table linens, perhaps dinner napkins, kitchen towels, table covers and such. The ladies working do not look too thrilled as one is just watching stuff dry on the clothes line in the back room and the other seems to be staring at the picture on the wall. I can smell the scents of bleach and soap and feel the heat from the steam. I wonder if this is what they expected when they applied for a "library job".

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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