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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • SPANGLES: THE CONTINENTAL CIRCUS

Orphan Odyssey: 1924

Orphan Odyssey: 1924

23 Students Here After
Crossing Continent on Way to Florida.

        The tourists' camp in East Potomac park has been temporarily converted into a school. Twenty-three children from 3 to 19 years of age, students of the Draper's Children's Home, of Des Moines, Wash., are making their home there after a five month's trip across the continent.
        They left Des Moines in June in a caravan of sleeping trucks, kitchen wagons and closed automobiles, bound for Florida, where they will pass the winter. They arrived here Friday. H.M. Draper, superintendent, heads the school-caravan.
        A tutor is with the caravan and the children have daily school sessions. The report of their progress is mailed back to the superintendent of schools in Spokane, Wash., where they normally attend.
        Most of the children are musicians or singers. Saturday they serenaded The Washington Post and the District commissioners and they are planning outdoor concerts here for this week.

-- The Washington Post, Nov. 24, 1924

Nov. 25, 1924. Washington, D.C. "Orphans of Des Moines, Wash., at tourist camp." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

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"Children's Industrial Home of Des Moines"

I wonder if they didn't go to school in Spokane, but had to report back to some sort of state education board? According to the Highline Historical Society, Des Moines had 4 room school house at this time. http://www.highlinehistory.org/PHOTO_COLLECTION_FINDING_AID.pdf

The Des Moines Historical Society has a fabulous monograph on the Draper's and their home. http://dmhs.org/monographs/draper-childrens-home.html Although it doesn't elaborate much on their traditional schooling, it does have some great insights into why all these orphans are musicians and singers. I love that in addition to the "Opera House", where "we teach and train our children every thing necessary for first class Musical Comedy and Vaudeville Entertainments" (as printed in a flyer c. 1915),there was an operating "Printing Plant" in which students did all the typesetting and printing for a monthly newsletter that they helped write. Not everyone was born to be an entertainer after all.

It seems like the Draper's really cared for the well being of these children and were obviously aware of the struggles that would face them after leaving an orphanage or other such institution.

Why Spokane?

It strikes me as odd that they are reporting back to the Spokane school, which is on the opposite side of the state from Des Moines. In 1924 it was a 2 day trip from one to the other (according to my mom, who did it back then).

[They're reporting back to Spokane because that's where they go to school, according to the news item. - Dave]

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