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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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School Makeover : 1919

School Makeover : 1919

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Western High School (renovating)." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Having been a public school caretaker

for the last quarter century of my working career, I'm always bemused watching people doing this kind of work.

Most don't have a clue how to even swing a "string mop".

Never wash floors without sweeping up all loose debris first. What are those wads of paper doing in the water on the floor?
A wet mop is swung from side to side across the front of one's body; never back and forth.

Where are the wheeled buckets with mop wringers?
Those mop handles are way too short also.
These days battery driven "auto-scrubbers" are best for this task.

When these clowns are finished, someone who knows how to do this work properly, will have to clean up the horrendous mess these young men will leave behind.

When the principal of the school suggested to me that students do my work as detention, I always refused.
I always countered with the comment, "does this mean my work is punishment?"

Anyone who believes that any 'dodo' can do this work does not realize, to accomplish this type of labor safely and efficiently, one must be trained in the properly skilled methods required to do so.

Pull my finger

Maybe water spritzed out of their bowties to clean the walls

No Dirt Left Behind

I've a friend who grew up in Tokyo and until senior year of highschool she had to do janitorial duties once a week (the school was cleaned every day, the team of students rotated).

I agree with Mike G, this would be very useful in the US, and not as a punishment, but part of the curriculum.

90 years later...

And this would have been a graffiti removal crew.

Students Working

My high school had Saturday detentions, and students were given the option of studying silently or cleaning up the school grounds and picking up litter. Both were supervised, and the grounds work was the more popular choice.

Shirt & Ties, Please

These young men are dressed better while doing this labor than any public school student today. Seems to me, a little pride in oneself and one's school is a good thing.

Spring cleaning

Scrubbing down the walls used to be part of the spring-cleaning ritual for most anywhere coal was used during the heating season. Everything would be coated with soot. My grandmother used Soilax.

That's harsh

To have to scrub the halls in your dress clothes! Maybe this *was* after-school detention? And what the heck is that guy scrubbing the wall with? It looks like it's eating off the flesh on his left hand. Hope it wasn't some lye-based cleaner. Flooding the floors first and then slopping it around with rag-head mops also seems an ineffective technique. Nice marble baseboards, though.

Out of Reach

Those old high ceilings again, and not a ladder or scaffold in sight.


At my high school, demerits resulted in precisely this sort of thing.

Mr. Clean

Yo bro, that dual hand washing system is inventive, cover twice the space in half the time. Now for those baseboards, a certain Mr. Clean will need the help of a Miss Dutch Cleanser.

Students doing work!

What a great idea, students doing the cleaning and maintenance in school. I have often suggested this at the school where I teach in but I am told that to assign student work like this would be considered corporal punishment in my state.

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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