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Secretaries of War: 1918

Secretaries of War: 1918

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. "Enlisted Officers Personnel." The clerical army behind the one with the guns. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


All made of oak

So much of the furniture and office cabinets back then were made of oak, as it was plentiful, very hard and easy to work. I just restored one of those oak card files the other day for my son. I made partitions for the inside and turned it into a tea box (he likes his tea!).

New Construction

The office seems bare bones and unfinished. I wonder if it was something put up hastily to accommodate warn demand. Or perhaps it just enabled everyone to communicate easily without a lot of walls and also helped circulation in a hot climate.

[These were "temporary buildings" (many on what used to be B Street, and making early use of drywall construction) that were demolished in the mid to late 1920s. - Dave]

So modern

Typewriters, fans, large windows with blinds, lots of lamps. In 1918, it was the peak of modernity.

Non-coms apply here

Enlisted above a certain rate were considered "non-coms," or non-commissioned officers. In the Navy, E-4 and above were designated as "petty officers". They were not commissioned, but enlisted for a set period of time. Regular officers were designated by acts of Congress, and served "at the will."

Obligations aside, a "regular officer" was in for life, circumstances allowing, and continued to get promotions. Fail promo twice and you're out. Reserve officers were called up to duty as needed. It's been a long time.

Fan Notes

One can only guess at what the paper notices attached to the fan stands have to say.

Punch out

10 minutes to quitting time, smile!


The office is housed in a temporary building. Most likely near Barton Hall not too far from where the Lincoln Memorial was to be built in 1925. The women are smiling because they were posing for the photograph. There are two enlisted men in the photograph on the far left one behind the other.

[The Lincoln Memorial was completed in 1922. These buildings were nearby, generally on B and C Streets. A Washington Post article mentions this work taking place at "the historic old arsenal at Washington Barracks." Also described as the adjutant general's offices at Sixth and B streets. -Dave]

Isn't it one or the other?

Enlisted and Officers are quite different. What am I missing about the picture title?

Almost quitting time

Today's federal workers in DC seem to hit the road by 4.30pm. I notice that only one of the men looks to be in uniform, on the far left.

10 til 5

That explains the smiles.

Lock and Load

One page of paper. Type away at will.

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