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Semmes City: 1926

Semmes City: 1926

Washington, D.C., 1926. "T.A. Cannon Co. truck at Semmes Motor Co., Florida Avenue N.E." Dealer in Dodge Brothers cars and Graham Brothers trucks. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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More on the Semmeses

As far as I can tell from this, the maritime and the auto Semmeses don't appear to be related. Admiral Semmes' book is here.

Is there more to this?

I'm no old-time car buff, beyond admiring them. I was, ahem, captured by the title, Semmes Motor Company, of Washington, D.C., and started speculating. Raphael Semmes, former U.S. Navy officer, born in nearby Maryland, switched allegiances in the Civil War and captained the famous commerce raider CSS Alabama, which was finally sunk in a French harbor after creating havoc to Union shipping on various oceans. Whether that Semmes was any relation to the motor company family, I have no idea, but it's not a common name. Half the fun of Shorpy is the speculation that it creates in me.


Mr. Semmes was well connected, I believe, the grandson of a Confederate admiral and a chum/colleague of George Patton in the two World Wars.

Or else I don't have my Semmeses straight.

The Semmeses

Raphael Semmes, president of the Semmes Motor Co., was born 1889 in D.C., one of six children, to Christopher Columbus Semmes (1844-1911) and Symphronia Coombs Bryan (1847-1918).

The 1910 Census lists 21-year-old Raphael still living at home at 336 10th Street working as a manager of a garage. He married Mary McClearon (b 1895) in 1911; their first child, Mary Jane, was born in 1914.

By 1930 Raphael is president of the company, living at 336 Raymond Street in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife, four kids and mother-in-law.

1940 sees him as a real estate salesman in Miami Beach, with most of his children still with him, but no mother-in-law.

Mary died in 1963 and Raphael in 1972, both interred at Congressional Cemetery in D.C.

And Dave, honest, I am not making these names up!

Handsome Building

Not so sure its later replacement at 1424 Florida Ave. NE is an architectural improvement.


Simple, straightforward façade design. Well done.

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