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About the Photos

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 CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

Welcome to the White House: 1908

Welcome to the White House: 1908

Circa 1908. "White House Executive Office entrance." View full size.

 

Uncomfortable Chairs

It was common a century ago for chairs in a waiting room of an office, or the entry hall of private houses so equipped, to be relatively uncomfortable, ranging from annoying to excruciating. (Think of Frank Lloyd Wright's straight-backed chairs.) The explanantion is that the visitor would settle-in only when invited to the inner office, library, living room or the like by the host.

Call box

Does anybody know what the name of the object is mounted on the wall directly behind the doorman's head? It looks like a drop-shutter servant's call box from the period.

In this case, a "call box" was an inconspicuous way to summon servants. If one was needed in a particular room, an electrically operated red disk would appear under the name of the room requesting attendance. It was the "modern" version of the old Victorian rope pull for the parlor maid.

Before Bill arrived

If this wasn't just "circa 1908," but 1908, Teddy Roosevelt would be in his final full year as president. This shot matches the north end of the "lobby" area in this map of the first true West Wing, built only six years earlier.

The ordinariness and wear suggests why his successor, William Howard Taft, would overhaul the West Wing almost immediately upon taking office.

Tattered rug

Note how tattered the rug in the vestibule is. Gives a sense of the White House as a working government building, less of the symbol it is now.

The 300-pound presidency

It's a cinch that President Taft never sat in any of those chairs.

Mix and Match

Seems like Uncle Sam could've at least sprung for some matching chairs.

Theatre Moment

An Inspector Calls.

Quote:

"I'm sorry, Mr. Coolidge, you're much too early."

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
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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