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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Bureau Drawers: 1925

Bureau Drawers: 1925

Washington circa 1925. "Bureau of Identification, Department of Justice." More thrilling cases from the Bureau's files. This was the forerunner of today's FBI, before they got the F. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

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Up There

I love how high up the pencil sharpener is. At 5 foot 3 I'd have to stand on a chair!

Fingerprint Repository

The agents are comparing fingerprint cards in the fingerprint card room. The card being checked is held at the back of the stack, with the prints portion higher than the cards being compared. The cards are then flipped down as they are compared, cards with similar prints go into the wire basket on top of the cabinet then to a desk for final examination.

This card repository grew until it occupied several floors inside the FBI building in Washington D.C. when I had the privilege of visiting the building in 1961, the search process had not changed much at that time except the rooms were bigger, brighter and the file cabinets were taller. I am told that the fingerprint cards are still being kept and they occupy several acres of floor space in a separate facility after being digitized for AFIS.

Here's the deal, see?

"You fellas have your choice of office! You can either work in the room with big windows and a nice view but sit sidesaddle and not be able to open your file drawers or go to the bathroom, or you can work in the nice, roomy basement with dodgy wiring and what looks like bulletholes in the ceiling."

"If we work in the basement, can we run around in our shirtsleeves?"

"You bet."

"I'll start on Monday!"


That looks like an exterior window on the left (above the radiator) but it still feels like a cave in there.


Those hanging lamps would be right at home in any chichi bar in any major city in the world.

Cramped quarters

My quick online research indicates that the B of I had been moved to D.C. from Leavenworth Penitentiary two years earlier. Maybe all the congestion in the two photos we've seen in the two photos is a consequence of them still occupying whatever spare office space was available rather than having a dedicated facility yet.

A Cheery Note.

It's a very gloomy looking room with no outside light coming in and an interesting system of extension cords coming out of various outlets in the ceiling. However the flowers on the desk is a nice touch.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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