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Take a Letter: 1920

Take a Letter: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Washington School for Secretaries building." 1419 F Street N.W. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Those awnings couldn't belong to those hotels because they would be behind the photographer. Odd numbered addresses are on the north side of wast-west streets in Washington, and the Willard and former Hotel Washington are on the south side of F Street.

The whole block pictured in this photo has been replaced by Oliver Carr's 1980s Metropolitan Square abomination.

Down the Line

Liebermann & Hawn
1421 F St.
ca. 1920

H.P. Peterson
1421 F St.
ca. 1920

F.J. Heiberger & Sons
1419 F St.
ca. 1911

Val Richter's Colonial Shoe Shop
1417 F St.
ca. 1920

Very Sharp!

All are quite readable. They are:
* Abstracting
* Bookkeeping
* Business Writing
* Cataloging
* Charting
* Classifying
* Commercial Arithmetic
* Commercial Correspondence
* Commercial English
* Commercial Law
* Commercial Spelling
* Compiling
* Duplicating
* Dictaphone Operation
* Elementary Accounting
* Elementary Research Methods
* Filing
* Gregg Shorthand
* Graham Pitman Shorthand
* Indexing
* Listing
* Multigraphing
* Office Practice
* Pitman Shorthand
* Secretarial Bookkeeping
* Shorthand Penmanship
* Standard Office Appliances
* Touch Typewriting

About those awnings.

When I was a small boy in Newark in the 1950s, a friend of mine, he was probably 8, had a job and on a few occasions I acted as his assistant. Each morning he walked down the block to Orange Street and using a long steel crank, unfurled the awnings at a shop or two, so I actually had a pretty close-up view. The green and white striped awnings were made of very tough canvas, almost like sailcloth, while the frames were made of galvanized pipe. So the frame could last decades. The awnings were replaceable. Just from the feel, I'd guess ten years or so under normal conditions.

Hotel Awnings

The awnings on the near right belong to the Willard Hotel and the ones on the building to the far right belong to the Washington Hotel.

Helter skelter in the summer swelter

Must have been a sauna of a day in DC, when this picture was taken. Seems most of the windows that could open, were opened, even the ones above doors. And that fellow sitting in the chair above 1421 Tailor seems not to have the energy to even sit up. Swelter time off the Potomac, it seems.

Awning of a new age

I love all the fabric awnings that appear on seemingly every building in these old pics. I know they were pretty much for pre-air conditioning cooling. I always wonder how much maintenance was involved with them, though. Didn't they get ripped, torn and weather damaged with regularity? How often were they replaced? It seems like it wouldn't take much more than bad storm to shred them, even if rolled up! Was awning repair a big business back in the day?

Competent Secretaries

Both of the following are 1920 advertisements for The Washington School for Secretaries. The first appeals to the pragmatic choice of a field of study to match the need of employment opportunities. In contrast, the second lures the prospective student with an idealized picture of being an exclusive "private secretary." Perhaps it is a modern reading but the later seems rather sexually suggestive.



In 1920

You didn't have to lock up your bike in DC.

Just a couple blocks down

Pigeon Haven

Looks like the attic vent serves as a home for our fine feathered friends.


Under enlargement, the sharpness of this image is impressive, even for large format. There's a white sign on the right side of the secretarial school door and about half the things listed on it can be read, or at least guessed at.

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