Pictures to Go: Capital Cars

The sight of a single car on the road in traffic-heavy Washington, D.C. was enough to catch my eye, but this photo was intriguing for other reasons as well.

Ford Motor Co., Lincoln at Capitol, [Washington, D.C.] Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1935.http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.31398

Ford Motor Co., Lincoln at Capitol, [Washington, D.C.] Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1935.http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.31398

The car is front and center, but clearly the U.S. Capitol rising prominently behind it is key to the composition. And the photographer seems to be standing in the middle of the empty street. Reading the caption offers a hint of what is going on: Ford Motor Co., Lincoln at Capitol. The car is indeed the focus, and I would suspect this photo is advertising the featured Lincoln automobile. Ford Motor Company purchased Lincoln in 1922, and a close look at the high resolution file confirms this is a Lincoln and the license plate reads 1924.

It turns out, though, that this image is hardly an isolated example of American auto companies using prominent Washington, D.C. landmarks as backdrops for their latest models. The Paige Motor Co. staged nearly the same photograph as Ford. Many other car companies, most of them defunct, photographed their cars in front of various D.C. buildings and monuments.

Take a tour of the capital city through a sample of these photographs. First stop: the Library of Congress!

Oldsmobile Sales Co., Library [of Congress, Washington, D.C.] Photo by National Photo Company, 1919 or 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.28777

Oldsmobile Sales Co., Library [of Congress, Washington, D.C.] Photo by National Photo Company, 1919 or 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.28777

Now, on to the White House:

ARGO Auto [White House, Washington, D.C., in background. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.30950

ARGO Auto [White House, Washington, D.C., in background. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.30950

The Lincoln Memorial was another popular location. (Note that this photo also manages to advertise Post Bran Flakes, featured on the side of the truck.)

Semmes Motor Co. [Post's] truck [at Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.]  Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1926. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.32242

Semmes Motor Co. [Post’s] truck [at Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.] Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1926. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.32242

Oldsmobile tried a more natural scene and added two ladies, placing the car in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.:

Oldsmobile Sales Co., Rock Creek Park, [Washington, D.C.] Photo by National Photo Company, 1919 or 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.28767

Oldsmobile Sales Co., Rock Creek Park, [Washington, D.C.] Photo by National Photo Company, 1919 or 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.28767

Ford Motor Co. new Ford body [U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., in background]  Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.30660

Ford Motor Co. new Ford body [U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., in background] Photo by National Photo Company, between 1910 and 1920. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.30660

 Learn More:

  • All of the photographs featured come from the National Photo Company collection. Search the collection online for a view of life in the Washington, D.C. area in the first part of the twentieth century.
  • Enjoy more photographs related to Ford Motors throughout the Washington, D.C. area. Take a look at where else Oldsmobile took their cars on the road.  Explore more photos of Argo autos, as well as the wide variety of vehicles produced by Semmes Motor Company within this assortment of images related to the company.
  • Cruise through more images related to automobiles in the 1910s and the 1920s in the Prints and Photographs Division’s collections.

 

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