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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Money Killers: 1912

The Money Killers: 1912

Circa 1912. What might look like the start of a gruesome blood ritual is really just business as usual in Washington: "Treasury Department, Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Destruction Committee. Maceration of old currency." The lady is Mrs. Louise Lester, "in charge of mutilation." Harris & Ewing photo. View full size.

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Wild thing?

Louise Lester seems to have been quite a character in her off hours, when not annihilating money. She was active in Eastern Star and in amateur theatricals, and on one occasion she even won a contest in which "the ladies were required to eat a cracker and then whistle, the prize to go to the one who succeeded in performing both operations in the shortest time." (Washington Post, 1 August 1915, pg. R5)

Now there's a corporate title

I can imagine the small talk at an afternoon tea.

"So what do you do, Mrs. Lester?"
"Oh, I'm in charge of mutilation."

I'm looking

There must be a Goldman Sachs joke here somewhere.

Bored Game

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the obvious. It looks like it will be done in the Conservatory by Miss Scarlet, with the knife and it also looks like she's paid the rest of the characters to assist in the murder. I definitely see Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green, and Professor Plum. There in the back on the left standing behind Hooterville's Homer Bedlow is the unsuspecting and still living, Mr. Boddy himself. Poor guy, doesn't know he's dead already in their presence.

"Gee Louise"

"Can we try a double E cup next time. This old money spends just like new."

Journey to the center of the Earth

I think it's a funnel that goes clear down to China. At least, that's what we have now, and it's not even the old currency that goes in.

Earlier than 1917

This same photo, aggressively cropped, appeared in the Washington Post for 2 June 1912.

[Ooh. Thankyou! - Dave]

Super Cougar

I dunno, something about the woman. Maybe the way she's holding that knife?


This picture is so loaded with symbolism that it leaves me speechless. I think it may be my all time favorite Shorpy image.

Macbeth at the Treasury

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Mortal paper

Are they going to macerate that money or stab it to death?

Deja vu

We've seen this room before, haven't we? I believe it was an even older picture, and I'm awfully certain I remember seeing that cauldron in the floor before.

[Indeed. We were introduced to Louise two years ago in this photo.- Dave]

The Demon Currency Macerator of 14th Street

I like the way the light is shining off Mrs. Lester's knife.

Casting Call

Paging Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. A Warner Brothers ideal setting!

Femme Fatale

Wow, so much to love about this photo. But at the larger size, it's the pocketknives that drew my attention. One wonders if Ms. Lester kept one on her person all the time, given her duties.

And is that a giant bowl or a funnel into some basement furnace? Maybe a portal directly to hell!

Pocketknives much to love about this photo. But at the larger size, it's the pocketknives that drew my attention first. One wonders if Ms. Lester kept one on her person all the time, given her duties.

And is that a giant bowl or a funnel into some basement furnace. Maybe a portal directly to hell!

Hardly unique

I dated a number of women who could make money disappear.

Hot pockets

Which one is thinking "they won't miss a few of these"?

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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