D.C.

Posted by Ellen

Guest of honor at this Valentine's Day party in 1944 was Eleanor Roosevelt; serenading her was a soldier by the name of Pete Seeger.

The gathering celebrated not only Valentine's Day but also the grand opening of the new Labor Canteen of the United Federal Workers of America, CIO, near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.

United Federal Workers was a labor union representing U.S. government employees. Though soldiers and sailors were certainly not unionized, they may have frequented the new canteen for political and/or social activities.

The UFW included both black and white members. But the scene in this room was extremely unusual for 1940s Washington, which was still a completely segregated city. The military was also still segregated. Eleanor Roosevelt's presence was making a political statement about race as well as labor.

The cartoons on the wall in the background may have been the work of Woody Guthrie.

As some of you will surely point out, the banjo Pete Seeger is playing here does not look like the long-necked music machine he was long associated with. That one came a few years later.

Happy Valentine's Day 2015.

Posted by Ellen

The only skyscraper in the city of Washington, as glimpsed from Arlington National Cemetery.

Posted by Ellen
Ninety-nine years ago, in the winter of 1914, a Washington lawyer by the name of Wrisley Brown could fly on horseback across West Potomac Park without encountering traffic or tourists or even another horse.
 
Woodrow Wilson was president then, and the world was different. But when I was a little girl, which spanned a few years roughly halfway between the Wilson era and the current unpleasantness, people still rode horses in West Potomac Park, at least on summer Sundays, when the polo teams were playing. The Internet tells me that polo still happens there, with the Washington Monument as backdrop, or at least still happened there this past summer; presumably, it could also happen again next summer if the Republicans decide to unshut the government and reopen the park.

The Washington Monument is listing leftward in this picture, as are the trees in the park. That's an artifact of 1914 photographic technology, which utilized a slit in a spring-wound sheet-metal shutter to allow light focused by the lens to reach the glass-plate film. The slit would drop from top to bottom to expose the plate, but because there was a lens in front of the slit that inverted the light rays, the plate was actually exposed from bottom to top. And meanwhile, for this picture, the photographer was panning from left to right to follow the moving horse. Objects that weren't moving kinda got an angle to them.

A couple of years ago, the Washington Monument came close to acquiring a much more serious lean. The monument took a $15-million blow from a 5.8 earthquake and remains shrouded today in scaffolding, for repairs that probably are not considered important during a government shutdown, even though half the bill has been covered by a private philanthropist. We just can't have nice things any more because, you know, because.

They can play their polo somewhere else, I don't have a problem with that, but who are these people who think it's okay to let the Washington Monument fall to pieces?
Posted by Ellen

On one of these cranes in the sky above Bethesda, Maryland, is a "Now Selling" sign, urging people to go ahead and put their money down for new condos currently under construction.

Odds are, however, that nobody's buying the condos–or much of anything else–in Bethesda or elsewhere in the Washington area this week. An estimated 700,000 people anticipate being furloughed for an unknown length of time, and hundreds of thousands more will be expected to do their work as usual except without any guarantee of a paycheck.

This is how we roll nowadays, in the greatest country on earth. . . .

The cranes will likely keep on craning, like other non-governmental operations, at least until the reduced level of spending in the regional economy pushes businesspeople to furlough even more employees.

Posted by Ellen

In 1917, guy by the name of Jug Reynolds was trying to make a living doing this sort of thing–standing on his hands on top of a chair on top of two tables on top of the cornice at the edge of the roof of Lansburgh's furniture store at 9th Street and F Street NW in Washington, D.C.

Note that Jug's helper out there on the roof had a cigarette in his mouth. All in a day's work.

The domed building in the background is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Posted by Ellen

 

Only in Washington, D.C., in the year 2010, does a snowball fight feature lawyerly liability disclaimers, new-media marketing, and streaming traffic reports.

A heavily promoted snowball fight at Dupont Circle on Saturday attracted about two thousand participants, most of them adults, even though the snow was said to be too fluffy for decent snowballs. For every actual snowball thrower there appear to have been several would-be cell phone videographers, whose work may be assessed on YouTube. Six police cars waited nearby, but nothing happened. Some people attacked the fountain in the center of the circle by throwing snow at the people defending the fountain; the fountain is still there, so perhaps the defenders "won."

Facebook pages and Twitterings promoted the event. Lawyers were involved; a disclaimer on Facebook warned: "You are coming to Dupont Circle Park on Saturday, Feb 6, 2010, to play snowballs voluntarily. The people spreading the word about the happening are not preparing any special equipment or conditions and may not be held responsible for your decisions and/or actions."

Radio station WTOP broadcast warnings to motorists, urging them to avoid Dupont Circle and other snowball-fight locales. Although the Dupont Circle "fight" attracted the most attention, Washingtonians apparently were out pelting one another with snow all over town. This picture came from some allegedly voluntary snow play in Meridian Hill Park, where an artist was using an old piece of artwork as a shield.