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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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The Young Artists: 1939

The Young Artists: 1939

Washington, D.C., 1939. "Anacostia High School art class." National Photo Company Collection safety film negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

The story of the mural

The one the boy is working on with the man (Moses?) standing reading a scroll near a palm tree. It seems very familiar too me. Does anyone recall a similar image? I think it was in New York along with other WPA type art.

It is sad that schools no longer have money for such classes, given all the research that shows how beneficial music and art are to a child's mind. Yet they spend most of the budget on their football team, saying that it brings in money. Which goes back into sports to support the team ...

Mother? Are you there?

My mother was from the Washington area, and exactly the age to be one of these students, and for all I know she might have attended this school.

Dangerous occupation

I'm an art teacher in a secondary school and the girl in the floral dress is a good example of why we don't do lino printing any more. One slip and she'll be slicing a finger off. I do recognise the expression on the young lady at the front.

First Grade Clock

Even back when I entered the first grade (which was shortly after time began) our classroom clock had the numerals 1-12 and it also sported a big hand and a small hand.


I was also noticing the shoes, as an indication of family income. New shoes are most interested in painting, probably because they can envision themselves as artists. Old shoes know full well that they won't have time for such tomfoolery when they grow up into a life of household or factory drudgery.

Cat Woman

I'm impressed with the quality of their artwork, for the most part, but moreso with the leopard print vest the girl is wearing in the back. Now, that's a bold statement!


It seems very 1930s for these high school art students to be working on designs for murals, an art form that most American art teachers pretty much ignored after about 1950. The hundreds of WPA Mural Projects in public buildings all over the country did a lot to popularize this revival of Italian Renaissance fresco techniques, as had the publicity over the removal of Diego Rivera's politically charged mural at Rockefeller Center in 1933. The tall design of factory workers at the far right strikingly recalls the crowded figural compositions and forced perspective used by the influential Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Their well-publicized work in Mexico and the US in the early Thirties inspired the American WPA projects beginning in 1935, and art classes everywhere.

Life imitates art

It's not even nine o'clock and we're already hard at work at our boards. If we're going to match the posters on the wall behind us, then please colorize this shot.

1224 reads and no comment: you can do better.

[It's 9:43 - Dave]

Those were the days...

Back when schools still taught art, music and shop skills. You know, the stuff kids don't need.


I never knew Anacostia used to be a white school.

Just shoot me...

Blondie in the front row appears to be near death due to a combination of embarrassment for her shoes and the effects of terminal boredom.

Look at the time

The first thing I noticed is the wall clock. Those things haven't changed in 60 years. It looks exactly like the ones I remember from school in the '90s.

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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