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Caught Our Eyes: A Wintry Mystery

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Okay, I admit it. California-born and raised, I begin to shiver when the temperature dips much below 40 degrees, as it has this past week in Washington, D.C. That’s probably why my eye was drawn to this photo, which reference librarian Jon Eaker added to our “Caught Our Eyes” staff sharing wall.

Snow, Washington, D.C. Photo by Harris & Ewing, between 1915 and 1923.
Snow, Washington, D.C. Photo by Harris & Ewing, between 1915 and 1923.

Although it eloquently communicates wintry conditions, we know very little about the photo. It’s from the glass negatives produced by the Harris & Ewing firm, which was based in Washington, D.C., and focused on local happenings. And from the glimpse of city in the background, it was probably taken in Washington, D.C. But where? And when? Was it in the wake of a big snowfall? Or–given the seeming lack of snow surrounding this igloo-like pile–is it demonstrating particularly efficient snow clearing?

I tried one of our favorite methods of searching for clues–I used the “browse neighboring images” feature in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog to look at Harris & Ewing negatives that are numbered and filed close to this one. But, other than some icicles and wintry street scene, it didn’t yield any epiphanies.

Selecting "Browse neighboring images by call number" from the description of the snow photo yields this display.
Selecting “Browse neighboring images by call number” from the description of the snow photo yields this display.

We invite you to look for clues — or (as I did) simply to fantasize about how you would make this snow structure cozy on a cold day!

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Comments (6)

  1. First thought was that he was clearing street drains—but do you think steam or other venting from the street hollowed out the mound from below? If I found that, I might crawl in for fun, too! (At least until spring.) 🙂

  2. I think photo LC-DIG-hec-31787 (digital file from original negative) may be mislabeled…it is not a Red Cross Group…but rather, a group of Daughters of the Confederacy photo. Note the confederate 1st national flag left and the confederate battle flag to the right…in the photo.

    Your thoughts?


  3. I think photo LC-DIG-hec-31787 (digital file from original negative) may be mislabeled. This photo is not a picture of a Red Cross Group…rather, it may be a photo of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Note the confederate 1st national flag to the left and the confederate battle flag to the right.


  4. If you look at the next image in the “browse neighboring images” feature you will notice that it is also a wintry scene and the “Men on Sidewalk” are standing across from the old National Savings and Trust Bank near the White House. You could assume that the previous image was probably taken in that same area near the White House.

  5. I think Mr. Pohlhaus is right about the “Men on Sidewalk.” That appears to be the National Savings and Trust Company in the background which I believe is now a SunTrust Bank at the corner of New York Avenue and 15th Street…one of the few older buildings that still exist in that neighborhood. The buildings in the photo behind the “igloo” probably no longer exist so it will be difficult to identify the exact location of where that photograph was taken.

  6. Larry, I was able to find a copy of LC-DIG-hec-31787 published in the Washington Evening star at It says the photo shows the presentation of the stained glass window by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The windows were actually made by Tiffany Studios. The Red Cross has a page about the windows at

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