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People's Drug No. 4: 1920

People's Drug No. 4: 1920

Washington, D.C., 1920 or 1921. "People's Drug Store, 1150 Seventh Street N.W." View full size. National Photo Company Collection glass negative.


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Some of those strange implements in the front window were for straightening the hair of colored people. In particular, I know for certain that the one that looks like a pair of tin snips with solid metal blocks instead of blades was intended to be heated and clamped on curly hair. It was then pulled along the captive hair and straightened it. The company that made them still produces the same items, but sells them to Dixie Gun Works where they are made into bullet molds for muzzle loading rifles.

Best Milkshakes!

I completely agree with you! I miss having those with the tuna salad sandwich. Great memories.

Dark inside

It looks so dark inside- as if there was a power failure. I assume not- we have become so accustomed to bright fluorescent lit stores that we forget that stores were once only illuminated by a few incandescence bulbs hanging from the ceiling. People must have had better eyes back then!

[It looks dark because the camera was set for a daylight exposure. If the photographer had used a slower shutter speed the inside of the store would be visible but the outside would be overexposed. - Dave]

Biscuits In The Window

I definitely see a reflection of a sign for Uneeda Biscuit. I guess they were a competitor of Nabisco, but they're burned into my memory from the salesmen's patter at the beginning of "The Music Man."

[Uneeda wasn't a Nabisco competitor; it was a brand owned by Nabisco. Which is short for National Biscuit Company. Which is reflected in the window right under "Undeeda." - Dave]

Girls in the Window

Thanks, Dave. And wow, even stranger! The left-most panel had looked vaguely "Gibson girl"-ish but thanks to your tweaking all three panels seem to be something else altogether. I wonder what they were?

Reflections in the Window

Look at the reflections in the glass to the left of the main entrance (with the metal implements across the bottom). They appear to be posters of women in (for the time?) modestly provocative poses, from the building across the street. Can you get a close-up of that?

[For some reason I feel like Harrison Ford. Click below to enlarge. - Dave]

Does anyone know

What colour the paint would have been?

[A riot of grays. - Dave]

I grew up in D.C.

People's was a great drug store. I remember sitting at the counter and eating egg salad sandwiches with my mother when I was very young. The chocolate milkshake was a real treat! So thick you needed a spoon and a straw!

Hey Mister

This looks just like the drugstore in the opening scene of "The Untouchables" when the bad guy leaves a briefcase (with a bomb in it) on a seat and a little girl runs after him screaming "Hey, Mister! Wait! Mister! Wait! You forgot your brief.........(boom!)"

P.D.S. for me

I went surfing and found out that mysterious bedbug bane PDS was another name for DDT. It's like saying Muriatic Acid instead of Hydrochloric Acid.

[Not quite. PDS is an abbreviation for Pesticide Data Sheet. - Dave]

I wish

Oh, I wish I could go back in time (for a short time) in that store and look at all the items that made up the daily lives of people in the 1920s. What fun! Love this picture.

I'll be the one standing up right after you...

Did you mention the laundry piling up? Dinner tonight is PB&J, because of Shorpy.


What was the reason for the squiggle patterns?

Are they an exaggerated representation of woodgrain, or perhaps a stylized animal pattern? Was this sort of treatment used elsewhere and did it have a name? I imagine the storefront was very colorful.

People's Drugs

It's interesting to see that the name "People's Drug Store" evidently didn't have any negative or subversive connotations in those pre-Cold War days. Recently a farmer's market in my area started calling itself "The People's Market" and the name was intended to call up sort of rebellious hippie-ish associations. A couple of decades ago in the Reagan era it would have been almost unthinkable.

A Good Five Cent Cigar

Woodrow Wilson's Vice President Thomas Marshall famously said "What this country needs is a good five cent cigar." If you look at the price in the window to the right of the door you's note cigars selling for as low as 3 cents ("La Lunedas" 3 for a dime) and four cents ("Fowler Crests" 6 for a quarter), and a nickel ("Ideas"). The highest price I can see in that window is 25 cents. So either Marshall wasn't shopping at Peoples, or the store was selling stinky stogies. (Actually I don't mind the smell of a good cigar even though I don't smoke them myself; I'd rather smell a cigar than cigarettes any day.)

Idle Thoughts

I wonder if the "P.D.S." of the Bedbug killer stood for "People's Drug Store"? Maybe they had their own recipe for local bed bugs.

And those guaranteed rubber goods- are those what I think they are?

I also note that the Dentist is growing a plant using what looks like an used product box; perhaps given him at the store below his offices.

Dentist over the Candy Counter

Wonder if the yelps of the patient being treated for his/her sweet tooth slowed down sales...

Love the photo, very nice.


I love shots of old stores like this one. I like to see all the bits and pieces that made up people's lives. I also find myself amused that the ad for "P.D.S: A Killer for Bed Bugs" is right next to the one for "Guaranteed Rubber Goods." But then, I'm weird that way.

Thanks for all the great photos you post!

Cutting instruments

Is that an assortment of cutting instruments in the front window? I guess if you couldn't afford to go to Dr. Gordon you could at least do your own surgery in the comfort of home.

[Those are straight razors for shaving. - Dave]

I still miss People's.

I still miss People's.

What a great building.

Really shames the modern drugstores. Just look at the architecture and advertising. Beautiful.

Thanks a lot

Well this is it. Because I can't stop looking at these pictures, my house is a mess and my garden is overgrown. With the detail and so much to see in this one, my job is probably going to have to be sacrificed. Can we start a donation jar for me? Are there any "meetings" I can attend? "Hi my name is Carol and I'm a Shorpy addict".

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