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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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Big Sale To-Day: 1920

Big Sale To-Day: 1920

Washington, D.C., 1920 or 1921. "J.E. Cunningham Co., interior." View full size. National Photo Company Collection glass negative, Library of Congress.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Black Shoppers

DC was segregated. My father was born in 1931 and lived in N.E. He said they couldn't go shopping or to movies downtown because most stores and theaters were for whites only. Obviously this wasn't one of them.

Terms Of The Sale

I'm gonna need to get my specs out to read the fine print for the "Terms of the Sale".

Oh, I see now - CASH!

Why does everything in commerce have to be so complicated??

That Woman Again

You're both wrong! She was adjusting her Bluetooth headset.

The tall woman in the middle

The tall woman in the middle by the clothes rack, isn't she on her cell ?

[Probably not. - Dave]

Exactly. Listening to her transistor radio, obviously.

Hold the Phone

The tall woman in the middle by the clothes rack, isn't she on her cell ?

[Probably not. - Dave]

Sweater Price

That $5.89 sweater would be $63.49 in 2008. Check this site:


Just what I was picturing. Thanks, tterrace!

Comedy fodder

So this scene from "Fluttering Hearts," a 1927 silent Hal Roach comedy starring Charley Chase (center right in cap and knickers) isn't too far off the mark:


This department store's sale prices are comparable to the everyday prices from the Sears Roebuck catalog. For instance, Sears's georgette blouses ranged from about $5 to about $11.

Black and White Sale

What strikes me at interesting is that there are black people in this D.C. shop. I realize that by the 20's the Reconstruction was well underway and out of the way, and D.C. was never segregated, but this is striking - so many of the pictures of African Americans at this time are poor or on plantations, not shopping, and these dames aren't dressed like shopgirls! But I believe I even see a "colored" man in the crush on the right.

What a crowd!

This reminds me of those old cartoons with ladies at a sale fighting over a piece of clothing. I can picture two women grabbing the same sweater and coming to blows...or ripping it in half. If anyone wonders why I am that rare woman who hates shopping, all they have to do is look at this photo. Scary!!

Hat Lady

I like the black lady at the left. More specifically, her jaunty hat and happy expression. Can we get a close-up?

[Ta-da. - Dave]

Stupendous Selling Event

Washington Post, Jun 6, 1920: advertisement

J.E. Cunningham & Co.

Mammoth Cloak and Suit House, 316 Seventh St.

All Washington Has Been Amazed by This Stupendous Selling Event

Involving a $350,000 stock of wearables that go in this great sale - the crowds literally swamped this tremendously successful bargain event, from the moment the doors opened last Thursday morning, June 3rd at 10:30 o'clock, on this great sale to participate in the greatest of all bargain feasts, wonderful matchless, and highest grade women's and misses' wear in the capital city, at prices that startled the entire country. Every available space in this big specialty store; all tables, racks, show cases, overflowing with real bargains. Meanwhile, make your plans - be here bright and early when the doors open at 9:30 o'clock - rain or shine.

Positively the most startling and astounding dress sale ever known.

[Click to enlarge.]

Different rack

I can make out the $3.95 sweaters but what I was referring to was the rack in the center of the photo. I am fairly certain it says $5.99 or $5.89. Aren't there people on here with enough time (and wisdom) to calculate just how expensive that sweater would be today?

[Aha. Petticoats, $5.89. - Dave]

Eighty-five people... my count (your mileage may vary).

And I think its "Sweaters" that are $3.95 in the bottom-right corner of this claustrophobia-inducing photo!

Girls will be girls...

But I am terribly surprised these shoppers stopped long enough to stare at the camera - of course not all of them - some were too busy on their way to the suit coats on the 2nd floor!

Was $5.99 (I think I'm reading that right) really such a good deal back then? I can't quite read what that is the price of though...

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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