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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Cathedral Mansions: 1924

Cathedral Mansions: 1924

Washington circa 1924. "Cathedral Mansions Grocery." The market at Cathedral Mansions, a multistory apartment complex on Connecticut Avenue that also had its own bakery and drugstore. View full size. National Photo glass negative.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5


OK, I know what hams, strip bacon and fatbacks are, but what the heck are calas? Or are my old eyes failing me?

[Cala is short for California ham. Which is not really a ham but a pork picnic shoulder. Also called a "callie." - Dave]

Saw what ?

I suspect Dave to have kept all these redundant answers to the intriguing question of the sawdust on purpose, just waiting for someone to ask it again.

Hot Mothers

As a youngster, I couldn't help but notice that lots of my friends did indeed have hot mothers but in today's connotation, they would have had great advertising potential with that name. Also notice the cracker barrel in the right at the end of the meat counter and the jars of (probably) olives, pickles, green tomatoes, pickled pigs feet and pickled eggs on top of the meat counter. To the person who asked about fresh eggs kept at room temperature, my grandmother kept hers in a glass bowl at room temp for several days and none of us ever got sick. Of course she also left the Thanksgiving turkey on the back porch since it could never fit into the icebox. (We did not ever need any of the BRAN stuff).


My grandparents used to cook with Crisco exclusively, just scooping it out by the pound. I remember when I was little getting it confused with sour cream. The reality was not pleasant.

I notice the packages of eggs on the counter stored at room temperature. How long do eggs last unrefrigerated?

[How long do they last warmed up under a hen? - Dave]

Zero Scoops

"Now You'll Like Bran!" I see five bran choices, mostly Kellogg's, and none includes raisins. Many wheat and corn options too. Mr. Kellogg must have been proud, as he was still alive at this time.

Where's waldo (a.k.a. the Sun-Maid girl)?

The Sun-maid company has a cute history of the Sun-Maid girl: "In 1915, the brand name SUN-MAID was launched, and within a year, executives of the company discovered a local girl, Lorraine Collett Petersen whose smiling face, red sunbonnet, and tray of fresh grapes would become synonymous with the sun-dried goodness of California raisins."

Paper or Plastic?

No plastic bags back then. Check out how all the bread is wrapped in waxed paper.


Why is there sawdust on the floor?

A & P Bulk Bins

The bins with lids behind the cash-register counter belie the fact that this is an A & P store. I wonder is service was as slow then as they are near me...possibly the store employee is on a higher floor delivering a brown bag of telephoned-in items for the truly cosmopolitan urbanite.

Sawdust redux

My down-South 60s school custodians used sawdust to sweep the floors. They had big bins of it stored outside the building and I recall us looking in them from time to time. The sawdust seemed wet because it was oily and the combination of sawdust and oil smelled great.

Think about it - faster than wet mopping, absorbed moisture, soft on flooring, and most of all no dust scattered from dry sweeping method (it picked up fine dust and dirt before it can hit the air and settle back). Ideal. I'd order a bin today to tackle our wood floors, pet hair, and teen boys residual in the house.


Campbell's Soup and Wrigley's Gum have not changed much if at all (except the price obviously). I wonder if the A&P tearsheet behind the register is for comparison purposes or was this store part of that chain?


In butcher shops (which this is), it catches drips of blood or fat to prevent the floor from getting slippery, and makes it easier to clean up.

That's a dang big scan! Good idea to get a jump on everybody asking for enlargements of certain products.

Whoa, look at those melons.

Whoa, look at those melons. Also, I see Kellogg's was pushing bran even back then.

Dusting it up

Sawdust caught a lot of the detritus that fell to the floor, and made it easier to sweep up at the end of the day.

Received fresh daily

I believe that in those days before modern packaging it was common for many substances to leak, for example the "choice meats" would tend to bleed thru the paper sacks.


Wikipedia has everything! In the article "Floor cleaning," in the section "Methods of floor cleaning," it says: "Sawdust is used on some floors to absorb any liquids that fall rather than trying to prevent them being spilt. The sawdust is swept up and replaced each day. This was common in the past in pubs and is still used in some butchers and fishmongers." I found this through Google, of course.

Cheap corn flakes

Wow...Kellog's Corn Flakes for 10 cents. Wonder what's under lock and key up in that skylight?


Sawdust has long been used on floors to pick up spills. At the end of the day you sweep it out and throw some clean sawdust on the floor for the next day. Ever been in an old-time bar with sawdust on the floor?

Look at the size of the watermelons!


Sawdust was used to absorb dirt, mud and grease. At the end of the day, the old sawdust would be swept up and new sawdust laid down. It was also used in bars for a very long time. Eventually, concerns about flammability from dropped cigarettes and improved flooring made it obsolete. Some Creole families and merchants in New Orleans used brick dust for the same reasons.


They would put sawdust on the floor because it would absorb the liquids that would fall, making for a easy clean up at the end of the day.


If I recall, it was on the floor to make cleanup at the end of the business day easier. The streets weren't exactly clean in those days. The sawdust would absorb whatever was tracked in and at closing, you'd just sweep up and throw away what got dirty and then lay down some more.


They seem to stock at least six different kinds of cocoa.

Sawdust on floors

Absorbed spills. Generally it was swept up each day and replaced with fresh. Very common in shops & bars of the period.

Butter and Egg Money

Butter at 47 cents a pound is equivalent to more than $5.60 a pound in 2008 dollars so we are doing OK on that front.

Even better, if that big can of Criso is four pounds at $1.40, that's equivalent to almost $17 today. In fact, a 4 pound can of Crisco today costs less than $6.

Good old days indeed!


What is the reason for all the sawdust on the floor? At least I hope it is sawdust.

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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