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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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Fancy Cakes: 1920

Fancy Cakes: 1920

Circa 1920. "Set pieces, Arlington Hotel." Including a polar pastry snowball iced with "Cook-Peary 1909." National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

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Wrong date, perhaps?

I think the dating of this photo to 1920 may be in error. By 1920 The Arlington was no longer the Capitol's most opulent and trendy hotel. In 1912, the original Beaux Arts building (built in 1869) was demolished and it would be 1918 before a new, much more mundane building was built at a different location. By this point the world's elite had found other places to lay their heads when visiting D.C. and the Arlington would never again be the first-class establishment it had once been. In 1935, the building would be taken over by the Federal Government to become offices.

I think the date internal to the photo is the correct one. The "Cook-Peary 1909" snowball certainly refers to the controversy between Frederick Cook and Robert Peary which erupted in 1909. Peary claimed to be the first man to reach the North Pole on April 6, 1909. Cook claimed to have reached the North Pole in April of 1908, a year before Peary. Both men were highly respected explorers, but Peary had detailed logs of his trip while Cook had almost none (he claimed Peary had lost them) and so Peary's claims were upheld late in 1909. I suspect that the snowball cake was in some way a rather tongue-in-cheek reference to this little dust-up. Perhaps as a snowball fight?

Beyond all that, the moustaches all four gentlemen sport would have been quite fashionable in 1909, but a bit out of date in 1920.

Cake Competition Rules

1. All cakes must be presented floating in the air on ornate flowered stands.

2. No candles allowed. All cakes must have trophies as toppers.

3. All bakers must have mustaches. No exceptions or variations in mustache style.

No cupcake wars here

These guys can show the Cake people on Food Network a thing or two.

SHORPY OLD 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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