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Beach Policeman: 1922

        Commemorating the Potomac Thighway Patrol's 100th anniversary, and one of Shorpy's most popular posts --
June 30, 1922. "Washington policeman Bill Norton measuring the distance between knee and suit at the Tidal Basin bathing beach after Col. Sherrill, Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, issued an order that suits not be over six inches above the knee." 4x5 inch glass negative, National Photo Company Collection. View full size.

        Commemorating the Potomac Thighway Patrol's 100th anniversary, and one of Shorpy's most popular posts --

June 30, 1922. "Washington policeman Bill Norton measuring the distance between knee and suit at the Tidal Basin bathing beach after Col. Sherrill, Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, issued an order that suits not be over six inches above the knee." 4x5 inch glass negative, National Photo Company Collection. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

I think I know what job I want when I grow up

The boys may be thinking this is the job for them!


This very thing happened to me in high school on Long Island!!

Get Back in Your Burka

Why the ladies don't kick sand in the face of this doofus is a good question. I'm guessing the boys standing just behind are wearing suits just as short.

"But this did not satisfy them"

"They wanted to play golf on the same days and at the same time as the white people." Imagine!

[Really. The nerve of some people! - Dave]

The measure of a man

Mr. Sherrill had definite ideas about things --

Very Presidential

I always wondered what FDR did in the 20's before becoming president!

Not Park Police

He is wearing a Metropolitan Police badge.

A perfect illustration

of bureaucratic inefficiency. What's with the tape measure? If the law says six inches, all he needs to measure with is something six inches long, that he can press against ladies thighs. Hmmm....

[That wouldn't have made as effective a photo. This was shot for newspaper distribution. - tterrace]

Oh, it would have made an effective photo alright! I doubt they could have printed it in the newspaper, though.

See him in action

You can see our man in action in this YouTube movie, round the 3:10 and 3:40 mark.

Touch my leg??!!

Is this the origin of the expression "cop a feel"? Just wondering.

Taking no chances

The young girl on the extreme left is definitely not going to drown as she is wearing TWO, not just one, inner tubes around her waist and keeps them on either in or out of the water. Better safe than sorry.

Reminders of mini-skirts

Forty-six years after this, I was a freshman at Fort Knox High School. While the fashion was for skirts to be several inches above the knee, at FKHS, if they thought someone's skirt was too short, they would make her kneel on the floor. If her skirt didn't touch the ground, they could send her home to change. The very young VP was generally the one who did that. Since I had grown four inches taller in the previous few months, but my dresses hadn't, I did my best to avoid him!

Presidential dipping

I notice the location may be along the Potomac. A trivia fact is that President John Quincy Adams loved to swim nude in the Potomac.

Pull over miss!

Pull over miss while I wrap my fingers around your knee cap! I bet his mother, his wife, his children, and his in-laws are so proud. How does he explain to his children what he does for a living? Yes, my dad measures women's bathing suits at the beach. Sooo funny. Nope, Madonna wouldn't put up with this. Note the little boy carrying (I think) a brownie camera in the back.

Some Warning, Please

Dave! Please! I had to clean my morning tea off my monitor. Too funny!

Fat Was Beautiful

"Plump" was a compliment in those days. Look at the first 10 Miss America winners (not to mention Playboy centerfolds). The current idea that "Bony is Beautiful" is of fairly recent development and is a forced denigration of all that makes women biologically successful.

(For the "Yeah...sour grapes" crowd, I'm 5'2" and weigh 97 lbs. I wish I had a little more padding.)

Washington Policeman

The policeman in question is a member of the United States Park Police. At the time they were under the control of the Bureau of Public Buildings and Grounds. They eventually were transferred to the National Park Service when the Bureau of Public Buildings and Grounds was reorganized to create the General Services Administration.(GSA got the buildings and the Park Service got the grounds).

Integrity IS hard to find!

It's really sad to be a 21 year old girl these days. Everyone I know is getting on their knees to get male attention instead of being subtle or witty. I'm reading and drinking coffee with my nose in a book. I think I've got the right idea, and my joints are no worse for the wear.


They have to be mother and daughter, related somehow...Matching necklaces...can we get a zoom in of the Medallions... please.. Dave? (Love this site by the way)

[Those are claim tags for the changing-room lockers. - Dave]


Don't get your point - I would expect you to use a scanner - either a film or flatbed type - to scan these rather than a digital camera. Just curious to know why all the pix on the site put through the Sinar look slightly unnatural for their time, that's all. Maybe we're all used to faded images from the period.

[You wouldn't use a film scanner because there is no film -- these images were recorded on glass plates the size of windowpanes. Flatbed scanners are more suited to reflective media (prints) than transmissive media (glass plates, film transparencies, negatives). Plus, flatbed scanners would be much too slow. The single-exposure scan back (in this instance, made by the Swiss firm Sinar) is standard equipment in a lot of archival facilities where hundreds or thousands of images have to be processed every day. The principle behind each scanning method is the same, though -- light shines through the transmissive media being digitized and hits a semiconductor array. - Dave]

Hmmm. 1922?

Nice pic - but perhaps the foreground images are a little bright, sharp and contrasty for a 1922 image? And a right click of the mouse and a quick squizz at the image properties reveal the use of a $25,000 Sinar digital camera back - and Photoshop CS3. Surely digitizing with a normal film or flatbed scanner would have been more appropriate? I do hope I'm wrong and that they are the real thing but...... Hmmmm.

[These images were digitized using a Sinar 54 scan back and then adjusted for contrast and turned from tiffs into jpegs with Photoshop CS3. - Dave]

On Our Knees

When one can determine what the appropriate amount is required to be modest, then the only fashion will be that one definition... A lot of people need to evolve..

For the sake of Humanity

It's obvious that what our parents taught us didn't matter to us, nor did they care for their parents as well. People had envy for their integrity and honor, and people cared for one another as if they were family, it's sad to see our world slope down to a level beyond wearing bikinis, to a level where we are happy how our children become more and more as adults to copy what we call "celebrities" and where short skirts and show skin. In my search I have found the answer and the solution to this problem, I have found a religion so great. Over time and as skin began to increase people see it as being normal, and that covering up is so abnormal, demeaning and a violation to one's rights, it's the beginning of humanity where Adam and Eve try to cover up, it's in our nature, in reality I found what integrity really means, to me and my family. Although I am double searched at airports because of my religion but in the end I am happy and can lift my head up high, and be proud of our honor, and what we have become in a hateful and evil world.

[So in this evil, bikini-wearing world, you're finally feeling good about yourself? Super. - Dave]

You can see from the marks…

…above her knees that she had taken off her stockings only a short time before the picture was taken.

Double Standards???

I don't see any men in the picture, but do notice the boys in the background are wearing essentially the same outfits, which modern boys would consider somewhat uncomfortable, I'd bet.

The Swimmer

I like that she's leaning forward. I'm pretty sure that'll slide the fabric down at least a little. Way to work the system, bathing suit girl!

I Knew It!

I've suspected for some time that my job sucked. Now I have photographic proof!

Good Work If You Can Get It

So, did she pass inspection?

D.C. "beach"

The area where the Jefferson Memorial is today was once a segregated public beach.

Re: Well, look at the girls.

You're an idiot. That's what real women used to look like before the media and anorexia started coming down on everyone. You think they had Twinkies and Ding Dongs back then to gorge on, while sitting in front of the TV? Those girls are not overweight. Your tiny mind has been warped by today's sick society.

Well, look at the girls.

Well, look at the girls. He's more like the "cover yourself up, fatty" inspector. Too bad we don't have those today...

Beach policeman

Notice how they aren't measuring the men.

Re: Sad

Just because some bratty little kids dress in very little at all doesn't mean they're pretending to be filming an adult movie. I'm sure there are people at the time of this picture who were offended by the girl's skimpy suits, but you don't really have to go off calling them porn stars.


I remember being a kid and having someone measure the distance between my knee and my shorts. Even though you knew what you wore was long enough, it never stopped the butterflies caused by wondering if the man doing the measuring was going to think they were too short! What an embarrassing time!


this picture is so disheartening. not saying that measuring women's bathing suits isn't a bit humiliating and patronizingly obnoxious, but why are our teenagers pretending they're porn stars?!

["Pretending"? - Dave]

RE: This poor guy would have a stroke...

Awww... but these are sure some nice pictures on this site, eh?

heaven forbid

men see more flesh than is already present...they just wouldn't be able to control themselves...monsters that they are...

Looking up

I'm sure he hated his job!! Yeah right!!

Its a tough job

but somebody's got to do it!!!

Beaches in DC

Is that the Washington Monument in the distance? With the Smithsonian Castle over to the right? That might put this at the swimming beach where the Jefferson Memorial is now.

My only question is...

Where are the beaches in Washington, DC?!?!

[Along the Potomac or Anacostia rivers. This is probably near the Tidal Basin. - Dave]

This poor guy would have a stroke...

...if he could see what our high schoolers are wearing to summer school this summer. I honestly don't know where to put my eyes.

And obesity does NOT stop them from wearing too little and revealing too much. I wish I could "un-see" some of this summer's ensembles! (Rolls of exposed fat, ripples, dimples, man breasts, and so much more...)

Side note: What you are hearing in the media about the increase of obesity among America's young people is true. As they entered the building today with their doughnuts and Gatorades and Rock Stars (breakfast they buy at convenience stores on the way to school!), I realized that the summer FACULTY is more trim and fit than the summer school STUDENT BODY. Of course, we *do* have a lot of coaches, male and female, working this summer, but still...

Today he could

look for bulbous folks who have no business wearing Spandex

Modesty, Please!

Today he'd be looking for thongs. I wonder what the next step is.

Bathing Suits Requirements

No kidding! My grandmother was arrested in the early 1900's for showing too much leg at a beach on Lake Michigan. Great pictures.... Al . Sacramento, Ca.

Oh my God, it's the REAL

Oh my God, it's the REAL bikini inspector!

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