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Sweet Land of Liberty: 1920

Sweet Land of Liberty: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Americanization class." The main location for these citizenship classes was the old Central High School at Seventh and O streets. Thirty nations were represented, "Italy having the largest number," according to a 1922 article in the Washington Post. "The Hebrews come second, with Greece third." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Hy there

Can anyone identify H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N here?


I don't think my Sicilian grandfather, Diego, is in this picture but this was the year he got off of the boat in New York. Thank you for letting me see what his early days in the States looked like. I doubt he was dressed this nice though. He came with only $20 in his pocket!

I get a good feeling

looking at this beautiful and sympathetic people.
I think the teachers were very kind to them.

Favorable Ratio

As they say, ladies, "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."

My chest swells with pride

just viewing this photo. One of the proudest moments in my life was watching my Canadian-born wife reciting the oath and becoming a citizen of the United States in 2004.

"Mother's full maiden name"

That was the only question that posed a problem when I applied (in 1963) -- it was difficult to fit into the allotted space: Yvonne Karen Anna Margrete Christina Augusta Broberg.

To prove that I could write in English, the interviewer asked me to write: "I do all my work in a big radio station." (I was working at WNEW, NYC.) When I asked if she could give me something a bit more challenging, she smiled.

The Oath of Citizenship

It still has that line in it about "potentates." Not a word you hear very often these days.

Spittin' Image

I'll bet the little girl with the bow is the daughter of the lady in the front row, closest to the photographer.

Sunday Best

Of course they were wearing their Sunday's best for the occasion of being photographed and that important step in their lifes being documented for posterity.

Photos were expensive. They were made on appointment. So I wouldn't be surprised if they all pooped in on a free Sunday afternoon to have this picture taken.

[National Photo was a news service -- this picture would have been taken for publication in a newspaper. - Dave]

Father of the popped collar

There he is, back row, far right. And, yes, yes, yes, they're all dead now. Well, perhaps Little Miss Bow there might still be kicking at 90 or so, and as I write this maybe she's online with her great-great-granddaughter in Silver Spring.

China. Poland, Iceland,

Jugoslavia, Austria, Ukraine, Prussia, Italy, England Canada, Argentina, try and match the faces. (If that's politically correct today)

The Movies

I give two big "Thumbs Up" to movie critic Gene Siskel, second row, far right!

Face Off

Contrast the tough looking character front row second from right, and the big white bow that's wearing the pretty young girl in the back.


What a lost art, if you look at any child's hand nowadays.

And how well-dressed these folks are, compared to any classroom (child or adult) eighty years hence.

One wonders where "progress" has taken us.

Americans By Choice

This is a great picture. I have to imagine that they knew that they were to be photographed and wore their finest for the occasion. This class met in the daytime which I find unusual. The vast majority of immigrants had to get right to work. Most classes, either English as a Second Language or Pre-Citizenship, were usually held at night.

[These were evening classes. 7:30-9:30. - Dave]

Looks like full daylight to me. Daylight Savings Time didn't become law until 1918, so at 7:30PM I don't think it would have been that bright. They probably came in earlier just for the photograph.

Ooh, Miss Flirtatious

Front and center, showing off an ankle.

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