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Mildred Pepper: 1937

July 1937. Washington, D.C. "Mrs. Claude Pepper, wife of the Senator from Florida." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

July 1937. Washington, D.C. "Mrs. Claude Pepper, wife of the Senator from Florida." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Potent Potables

I'm really curious about those liquor bottles in the cabinet. Dave, any chance of a blow-up of that part of the image?

Edit: Thanks, Dave. On the right is a bottle of sherry. Can't make out the one on the left. Funny how, seventy years ago, the Senator from Florida had no problem drinking fine Spanish wine, while today our President gets pilloried for eating French mustard.

Busy Women

This reminds me of the Kodachrome my uncle took of my Grandma 15 years later. The kitchen has the same sparse look with shiny walls.

The maid

is probably just out of the frame waiting for all this PR nonsense to be over so she can get back to work.

Nice Hands

Okay I admit it, my comment is trite. The Senator's wife has nice manicured nails.

Dig that extensive spice collection!

Salt. And pepper! Wow! She had all the bases covered.


That's just the top part of a double boiler, being used like a regular saucepan. That's probably a water shutoff valve over the sink.

What, no flames?

If you look closely at the stove top, you can see how the electric elements are set into ceramic guides, with a power connection on each side. Electric was looked at as modern and clean and preferable to gas. Gas didn't have the cachet attached to it that it does today.

I got it


Key Lime Pie!


Most likely it is breakfast if the egg cup on the counter is any indication. She is making a poached egg or a soft-boiled egg and in days of yore, the soft-boiled egg was placed whole in the cup, the top slashed off with a good swift swat of the butter knife and the egg was seasoned and eaten with toast. The saucer on the stove is what the egg cup sat on so you had a place for your toast and the top of the egg you would scoop out of the shell. The coffee percolator and the rather plain housedress hint that it is morning, no jewelry, makeup, etc. The reason the stove is off is because the egg has finished cooking and she is getting it out of the water with the slotted spoon. I know this because when I was young, my mom often made soft-boiled eggs. They're delish but difficult to cook "just right."


Crisco, Morton Salt, Quaker Oats. Liquor in the cupboard - are those limes? Why so many? And what is the purpose of that valve jutting from the wall above the sink?


You could say this photo proves that, in the late thirties, Washington was just a quiet small town and not yet affected by the World and what was going on there. So you have the wife fixing dinner, a pretty typical and normal thing. Except for that burner-off question!

The Woman

So this is the woman for whom that shameless extrovert Senator Pepper gave up the habitual practice of celibacy and with whose SISTER he practiced nepotism.

Unique stove

I've seen lots of electric stoves from that era but never anything remotely resembling this one. Interesting design, with countertop extensions and flush burners... and it appears that Mrs. Pepper is using the flush burners to get finer control of heat than is usually possible with an electric range. You couldn't slide a pan halfway off the burner on a more typical stove; the pan would just tip over.

I remember

...kitchens like this. Very similar to the ones in the flats we lived in in San Francisco in the era. That could almost be my mother at the stove. Although we had gas stoves in San Francisco. Kitchens of the era were very stark and utilitarian. Not a lot of counter space. Food prep was done on the kitchen table.

Long Time

Mrs. Pepper would be a Congressman's wife for the next 52 years.

[More like 42 years. She died in 1979. - Dave]


One presumes she is fixing dinner for all the little Peppers. It would be interesting to contrast this shot with a contemporary Senators wife in the kitchen. I wonder how many of them do their own cooking?


That double-boiler isn't going to heat up anytime soon with all the burners off.

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