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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY TO THE CARIBBEAN BY CLIPPER, c. 1950s

Washington, D.C.: 1935

Washington, D.C.: 1935

Washington tenements, Nov. 1935. View full size. Photo by Carl Mydans.

 

Everything but the clotheslines

The view out the window into my alley in D.C. is very similar. Not so much laundry, but rugs and towels hang from porches. It's cleaner, most of the rubbish is in cans. Instead of washtubs and baskets the porches and alley are cluttered with storage bins, grills, coolers, etc. Yes, my alley looks very similar.

Tenements

Its amazing how this could be passed off as a modern apartment complex, only the cars and the dress style gives away the time period.

Sleeping Porches

The back alleys of DC looked radically different 40-90 years ago, in part because "sleeping porches" were common. In the absence of air-conditioning families would typically sleep on these porches in high summer. Rickety porches like these were torn down, better built ones were incorporated into the house with walls in the 60s-70s and are a noticeable feature in Georgetown if you know what to look for.

Great Photo

My father would have been 10 years old in 1935. Looking carefully at the detail of this photo, one wonders if they had plumbing for bathrooms. It's obvious clothes dryers were not in this time period, hence all the clothes on clothes lines. It looks like wash basins were used for seating on the back porches.

The problem with B&W photos, although it is nostalgic and it forces you to really look for detail, it makes most photos look "dirty" because you can't see any color. It also gives it a sad ambience. Most people in these older B&W photos are not smiling. Maybe it was the depression era. If these photos were in color, it would be a whole completely different feel. When I think of the early years, I NEVER think of them in my mind in color. Always B&W. I wish I knew how to colorize some of these....just for a different feel.

[Here's a color photo from the same city, seven years later (1942). - Dave]

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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