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Popular Mechanics: 1927

Popular Mechanics: 1927

February 9, 1927. Central High School, Washington, D.C. "High school girls learn the art of automobile mechanics. Grace Hurd, Evelyn Harrison and Corinna DiJiulian, with Grace Wagner under the car." View full size. National Photo.


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This is a 1919 - 1922 Stephens.

In 1922 Stephens had seven models available - 4 open and 3 closed. Prices ranged from $1,595 for an open roadster to $2,550 for an enclosed sedan. All were six cylinders.

In August 1922 Stephens Motor Works became the Stephens Motor Car Company. All 1923 Stephens sported a new logo of a stylized lightning bolt and "Stephens" in plain letters on the hub caps.

Stephens would cease manufacturing cars in 1924. It is believed that about 30,000 Stephens' were made in nine years. Only about 20 are known to exist today.

The Amazing Miss Evelyn Harrison

Washington Post, Nov 10, 1928

Tomboy Complex Causes Coed to Study Engineering

A tomboy complex, she explains, has gained for Miss Evelyn Barstow Harrison, 17 years old, of 911 Massachusetts avenue northeast, the distinction of being the first girl ever to enroll for a degree in engineering at the University of Maryland.

Miss Harrison, who was a first honor graduate at Central High School, yesterday said, "All my life I wanted to do what the boys in the family did," and further commented on the origin of her desire to go in for such an admittedly masculine vocation by recalling that she elected a course in automobile mechanics during her senior year in high school.

Her study for engineering, she said has not caused her to forsake pleasure-seeking pursuits of the younger generation. She finds that her studies do not take up her entire time, but that mathematics does not mix very well with an all-dated-up-week. Miss Harrision makes her home while in Washington with her grandmother, Mrs. Emma J. Harrision, of the Massachusetts avenue address

Washington Post, Jun 12, 1932

Law is Ultimate Ambition of Girl, 21, Civil Engineer

First Woman to Finish Maryland U. Course Popular in Class

Ye who look with incredulity on the future of American youth, hearken to the tale of Evelyn Harrison, the first woman to be graduated in civil engineering from the University of Maryland.

They put her down in the catalogue of the University as hailing from Hyattsville: but they do wrong to the pround and puissant city at the headwaters of the Potomac for Miss Harrison is Washington's very own. She was born in this city; grew up to young womanhood at her home, 911 Massachusetts avenue southeast (sic), and she graduated at Central High School in February, 1927 when she was 16 years of age. If this does not make her a Washingtonian, nothing could.

"How on earth did you happen to select civil engineering for a profession?" I asked the modest young miss while four husky young men sat anxiously outside her home waiting for her to keep a swimming engagement. "It was just a chance," she replied. "I wanted a scientific course, and before I knew it I had signed up for a course in civil engineering. What was there to do but to go through with it?" ....

As with many in Washington, Evelyn Harrison went on to a career working for the federal government. In 1955 she was named a Deputy Directory of the Civil Service Commission. President Kennedy personally presented her with the Federal Woman's Award in 1962. By 1967, she rose to become the highest ranking woman at the Civil Service Commission. She retired in 1971.

It's a Stephens

The junker car is a Stephens "Salient Six" - produced by the Moline Plow Company of Freeport, Illinois from 1916 to 1924.

The Car

That 'junker' was probably premium automobile twelve or fifteen years before, overhead valves were a luxury car feature until Billy Durant co-opted Louis Chevrolet, and that's no Chevy... I'm curious what make of car this is. I've had no luck enlarging and reading the hubcap from this version of the image.

[Happy to oblige. As we can see below, it's a Stephens. - Dave]

Sultry Wrenches

Evelyn Harrison's hair looks a great deal like my mother's from a picture taken of her when she was 22 years old in 1927. So the hairstyles are quite realistic.

Amen and Evelyn...

Amen on the titles. LOVE the titles!

Oh, and my 20 year-old daughter just announced that if she ever has a daughter, she wants to name her Evelyn Gail. "Gail" I get because we already have three generations of women with Gail as a middle name, but when I asked her why the name Evelyn, she said she'd always liked it.

I'm secretly tickled because my favorite grandmother was Eva Grace ... maybe I can convince dearest daughter to consider spelling the name "Evalyn."


It looks to me as if Corrina would have trouble seeing over the radiator if she wasn't wearing those heels. Small girls or big cars.

Getting to grips with her teeth.

...I was sure it must be a toothbrush. Thanks for putting me right. Pliers, already, that makes much more sense. But she does have lovely teeth.


I still want to know why Grace is holding a toothbrush.

[And I want to know why she brushes her teeth with pliers. - Dave]


This old junker has no windshield wipers? Unless the students removed them earlier.

And what the hell is Grace doing with a toothbrush under the car?

[If the car is old enough, it never had wipers to begin with. And that's not a toothbrush. - Dave]

We Laughed, We Cried

I wholeheartedly agree that the witty titles that you guys (or is it just Dave as the wordsmith?) come up with for the photos are like frosting on the cake. Come for photos, leave with a chuckle.

Except for the sad ones, of course. It is surprising how many of these photos seem to arouse some sort of emotion beyond just the mere visual experience. The Depression era ones always get to me. The coal mine kids are perhaps the most evoking of all.

Pretty greasemonkeys

Oil change and lubrication and please check the air in that right front tire.
I've always loved the name Evelyn, after all it was my mother's.

Great picture as usual

I wonder how common it was in the 20s for women to learn auto repair? It seems more progressive than my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the time would suggest.

Also, two more notes. First, I loved the original title for this picture, "Sultry Wrenches". It made me laugh several times.

Second, doesn't Grace look a lot like child star Edward Furlong?

Central High

I believe this school was renamed Cardozo High School. It is in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC which suffered from race riots in the late 60s. I used to live a few blocks from there.

Rob in Oak Park


I believe the shoes and stockings are part of their ordinary school wear. They probably just put the coveralls on over their undies. I'm just glad to see how ordinary 1920s haircuts looked, outside of the movie theater!


Apparently, heels and stockings are particularly helpful when doing mechanical work. At least they were able to change into jumpsuits for the class. I also like the "Lubrication Chart for Buick Six" hanging on the wall.

As an aside, I'm really getting a kick out of the names. I never knew anyone named Grace, Corinne or Evelyn (aside from my grandmother) when I was growing up, as I came of age among the Jennifers and Amys of the 1970s, but my three year old daughter's preschool class has one of each.

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