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Parting Glances: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "729 12th St., Washington Times." Various shades of Twelfth Street. 8x6 inch glass negative, National Photo Company Collection. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "729 12th St., Washington Times." Various shades of Twelfth Street. 8x6 inch glass negative, National Photo Company Collection. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Cleveland motorcycle

The motorcycle in the photo is a Cleveland A2, which was manufactured by the Cleveland Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, located in the Ohio city of the same name between 1915 and 1925. The A2 was powered by a 220cc two-stroke engine mounted transversely in the frame, with a worm drive to power the countershaft sprocket for final chain drive. The shaft exited the two-speed gearbox and extended past the rear downtube to drive the the magneto, hung just forward of the rear wheel.

In 1920 the A2 grew larger, adding footboards, incorporated fuel/oil tank and wider fenders. The weight increased in 1921 with a larger fuel/oil tank and seat and a battery. To offset the additional weight, engine capacity was increased to 270cc. In 1923 a sportier model was offered - the Model E, which featured a battery and electric lights.

Although the Cleveland looked flimsy compared to the big V-twins offered by other US manufacturers, their light weight (68 kg) and moderate power (3.5 bhp and 30 mph top speed) combined for easy riding. The main market of the A2 were students, women and businesses who employed couriers and light delivery riders. The low price ($150) was cheaper than comparative bikes offered by other manufacturers. The A2 was replaced in 1925 by the 350cc Model F.

Shannon & Luchs

Holy cow! The Shannon & Luchs For Sale sign on 731 caught my eye. They were the dominant real estate company in Fairfax County, Virginia, when I was growing up there in the 1980s and '90s. I still remember their radio jingle: "It takes more than luck / it takes Shannon & Luchs." I had no idea they had this long a history. They seem to have been acquired by Polinger in 1993, but I know they were still going by the S&L name at least until the late '90s.

Honesty of Purpose

Washington Post, April 8, 1911.

Special Notices


The family of the late John McGregor, builder, of 729 Twelfth street northwest, desire to inform the public that the business will be carried on by his successor, Mr. Andrew Murray, who has been with Mr. McGregor for the past thirteen years. They trust that the same patronage extended to the late Mr. McGregror will continue to be shown to Mr. Murray. In reference to the above, I hope, by strict attention to business and the same honesty of purpose that characterized Mr. McGregror's work, to merit the confidence and patronage of his friends and the public generally. Respectfully,

Andrew Murray,
729 Twelfth street northwest.

One Skate

I bet the other roller skate is on the ghost of a kid spinning just on front of the steps. The rider is a blur because he's trying to kick start the bike. Upstairs grumpy, and the two men are much more interested in the photographer.

These are really neat old photos, I'm glad I found the web site.

My Side versus Your Side

It is pretty clear that the owners of 729 and 731 have a different philosophy of exterior maintenance. What a geometrically precise paint line between them.

Boys and bikes

You can tell by his blurry foot that the driver is kickstarting his bike. This is an activity that always attracts kids. There's something irresistible about the roar of the engine. The little boy standing behind the bike is thinking, "Someday I'm gonna get me one of those..." I've seen this happen a million times.

Dividing line

I love that only half of the building has been freshly painted. The other half - the builder's half does not instill confidence in his work.

Looks like the kid on one roller skate leaped from his ghost position to where he is now.

King Cola, the Royal Drink

Not much you can find about this brand, except that it was sued to death by the Coca-Cola Company for its use of the word "cola." How did Pepsi ever survive the same predicament?

[The defendant's sin was not the use of the word "cola" but rather its Spencerian-script logo (below), which was a frank imitation of the Coca-Cola trademark. Coca-Cola's legal blitzkrieg also took aim at Koke, Cold-Cola, Koca-Nola and Ko-Kola. - Dave]

Bicycle Brakes

The bike leaning against the Murray/McGregor office shows no evidence of brakes, coaster or hand. When did bicycles begin to have braking systems (other than putting your feet down)?....some Shorpyite out there knows.....


Bicycles, a motorcycle and a messenger office. Pure chance, or a cunning business plan?

Wall Between

I would hazard a guess that there is a wall between the woman and young boy. If you follow the line between "painted" and "unpainted" you will see that the width between the windows is farther apart. Also the chimney above, and the two stores below suggest some sort of support wall that would have to go all the way up.

Taken for a ride in another sense

I suspect that the owner of 729 hired the same Washington housepainter that I did.

The Phantom Phoot

So what's that disembodied upside-down foot above the third floor windows of #731?

Ghost Rider

Tenants checking out the ghost on the motorcyle seems to be the most likely scenario.

Window on my World

Buster Brown in the window above the deli seems to be looking at the motorcycle. Wondering if he is related to the woman in the window next to him, or if there is a wall between them and they are in different apartments.

Questions indeed

Is that young blurry boy only wearing one roller skate? Is the other young child telling the headless phantom motorcycle rider to shush?

Must say I love the "lace" and tassels on the Shade shop.

Cleveland Motorcycle

That's a production motorcycle from the Cleveland Motorcycle Co.


What a mesmerizing photo; one can conjure up at least three scenarios that fit what we see here. The pride of the gentleman inside the Builder's office watching his son leave; the parting of two friends (or lovers); is the rider embarking on a grand adventure; who is the rider, really? The more you look the deeper the stories become. Olde photos are magic.

Ahead of the times

Like the bike propped against the building. Owner has his bars flipped and his seat laid back -- cutting edge!

So many questions, so little time

Are the shutters seen on some of the buildings actually used? Or are they just decorative as are modern shutters are?

Why don't the brick stone buildings have shutters?

Is that some sort of prototype motorcycle?

Are the people in the windows family members of the proprietors of the businesses below?

Is the boy in front of the messenger service an employee?

BTW, I just love photos like this; an honest and unfettered look into a past long gone.

Possible Slumlord

Andrew Murray the builder doesn't take very good care of his property.

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