Perhaps it’s the impending arrival of April 1, but my first thought upon looking at this photo, placed on our “Caught Our Eyes” sharing wall by reference librarian Jon Eaker, was that it was an April Fool’s joke.
As is sometimes the case with photos in our Harris & Ewing collection, where captions range from very fulsome to non-existent, the photo is somewhat of a mystery. The title that came with caption data received with the collection, “Congressional Speaking Class,” seems to have very little to do with this leggy stork.
There are other photos with a similar title in the collection that seem to show just what the title suggests. For example:
One title provides more detail, indicating that it refers to a class on public speaking that was offered to spouses of members of Congress.
Jon’s working hypothesis was that the class included skits, and the stork’s delivery was a particularly elaborate one. But after browsing through several pages worth of photos using the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog “neighboring items” search, he hit on the more likely answer.
First he spotted this captioned photo, which clearly includes one of the people in the stork picture:
There are additional uncaptioned photos with the same background, including this one:
This one also seems to be related, and the original caption gives a clue as to the participants’ professional roles:
With those clues, combined with Jon’s awareness that Ruby Black, mentioned in one of the captions, was a well-known Washington journalist, Jon turned to historical newspapers in one of the Library of Congress’s on-site subscription databases. With some dedicated searching, he spotted a very similar photo in a New York Herald Tribune issue for March 4, 1939. The photo does show a skit, but it wasn’t a sudden departure from presentations at the Congressional speaking class. Instead, it was part of the annual Women’s National Press Club “Stunt Party.” The skit was satirizing an anticipated visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the White House. We can now provide helpful titles to several more images.
In pursuing the mystery of the stork, the original caption may have initially played a joke on us, but we sure had fun learning about two different realms of active women in 1939!
- Read more about the Harris & Ewing collection in our collection overview.
- View photos with captions referring to the Congressional speaking class, and have a look at the results of the “neighboring items” search launched from stork picture (use the arrows to browse pages ahead or behind this one). For more about the neighboring items search, see our blog post, “Finding Unprinted FSA/OWI Photos–It’s Easier Now!“
- Explore some of the Harris & Ewing mysteries others have solved when we featured them in our Flickr set, Mystery Photos: What’s the Story, and in blog posts.
- Photos of skits often convey some of the hilarity of such productions, and it’s interesting to explore photos of theatrical productions, in general. You might also want to review our blog post about a production that presents a bird of a completely different feather: Sanctuary for Birds–A Remarkable Pageant’s 100th Anniversary!
- Have a look at other photos in our Caught Our Eyes series.