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U Again: 1920

U Again: 1920

Washington circa 1920. "People's Drug Store, 14th and U." Another view of the drug emporium seen in the previous post. National Photo Co. View full size.


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1968 Riots

Riots broke out in Washington following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. By most accounts the first act of violence was a brick thrown through the window of the People's Drug store at 14th and U. The three days of riots that followed killed 12 people, injured over 1,000, and burned 1,200 buildings, permanently altering the character of 14th, 7th and U streets N.W. as well as H street N.E.

Another, unrelated, historical tidbit associated with this store is this photo of Mary McLeod Bethune picketing over racist hiring practices.

United Cigar Stores

In a previous post I tried to describe this gas flame device in a United Cigar Store in NYC and here it is in 1920 D.C. It was at the cashier's counter in just about every United Cigar Store.

Cigar lighter

I believe that is indeed a brass cigar lighter. My mother has described, in detail, the one that was in her father's drugstore in the thirties and that photo looks like her description.

I Wonder

Can't help but wonder what that device is between the two customers. It appears to be brass and looks more than a little like a steam whistle. I've heard that drug stores in this period often had a device with a gas flame where a man could light his cigar. I wonder if this is one of those. Of course anyone who knows anything about smoking cigars uses a wooden match and doesn't let the head of the match touch the tobacco. Gases from lighters or the sulfur from a match can ruin the "taste" of the cigar. Never having smoked myself, I know this because of some reading I've done about Winston Churchill.

Doesn't go both ways. . .

Seems to me that each of the front doors open opposite from the other: one out, one in. I personally can't think of going to a store that had such a set up. Was this specific for this store alone, or was it an example of a trend for the time?

Although I never have and never will smoke, I'm often tickled by the names of cigarettes that have long disappeared (or maybe they're still around and just rare). The sign above the impatient gentleman advertises EGYPTIAN DEITIES brand cigarettes. The name makes it sound exotic and mysterious. I imagine that'd be a hard name to sell nowadays.

Little Tramp

. . . And to the left of the cop is Charlie Chaplin.

Foot patrol

Looks like a cop on the beat standing across the street, caught at the perfect moment to be frozen in time. If these folks had only known what a hit they would be making and yet what a mystery they would pose almost a century after the photo was snapped!

Keep em coming! Great stuff for detail freaks.

Impatient gentleman

The impatient older man looks pretty uncomfortable - he's probably looking for directions to the truss department.


The older man with his hands on his hips is getting impatient. Better wait on him!

Look at all of the cigs!

Looks like the grandfather of the star of "Clerks."

Smoker's Delight

I don't know what cigarettes sold for at 14th & U in 1920. It looks like a large tin of pipe tobacco was $2.95 (or is it snuff?). When I was in the service in the 1950s cigarettes were 19¢ at the PX. The other day I was in a convenience store here in NYC and a sign said a pack of Marlboros was $9.


Wow! Creepy! Is that lady to the right a cardboard cutout??

Faster fans?

I'm going to have to assume the blades of the ceiling fans have been removed for some reason. Since the tree outside is bare of leaves, One presumes it's later in the season and thus cooler? Or perhaps the blades were removed as they interfered with accessing the upper shelves.

[Or, since this was the heating season, to keep the blades from getting covered with soot. - Dave]

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