Industry in 1915

“Lack of scientific cost-finding systems in the women’s muslin underwear industry has led to ruinous competition in the industry.” Evening Star, November 26, 1915, page 12.

Hello from the Office of Public Records

[NB: I’m not actually writing this from OPR. I hope that’s obvious.]

Last week I introduced myself to the Friends of the DC Archives. In doing so, I shared my Twitter handle, and thus exposed this here blog/website. Having done so, I figured I should share something new. Certainly my last post, suggesting that you adopt my foster cat Prince, is in need of replacement, as Prince was adopted (and now named Freddy) and my new foster, Mocha, is advocating for herself on my boys’ blog.

I’ve been the Public Records Administrator for the District for three weeks now. I’ve learned, in those three weeks, that supervising involves much more email than I realized, and I’ve discovered amazing records in our collection. (Bear in mind that I have a particularly nerdy perspective on what qualifies as “amazing.” Everyone (“everyone”) knows that we have Frederick Douglass’s will, but does everyone know that in 1987, there were 17 babies born in DC who were at least the 9th child born to the mother? Fun data!

One of the projects on my to-do list for the coming months (it’s quite a lengthy list) is to develop a social media strategy/plan. I would love to have an official outlet for publicizing our services and sharing nuggets of DC’s history. In the meantime, please remember that my observations and attempts at being witty here in this space are purely unofficial. Even if I do start a “found in the DC Archives” series. (Another thing on my to-do list? It might not happen.)

When your resources aren’t perfect

This post is a bit of a “what would YOU do?” request for input. Let me begin with the background:

I am, on behalf of my office, working on a project to digitize (*cough*scan*cough*) all of the D.C. Laws from Council periods 1 through 7. These are unofficial copies, and are online in concert with the unofficial D.C. Code that while unofficial is the easiest to use in most circumstances. The scanning has been done by two interns placed with my office through Urban Alliance (I wrote about Urban Alliance before), the first who did a huge amount of work and the second who is going through and picking up where things were missed or scanned from poor copies.

And thus we have the phenomenon that leads me to my question. I now have in some cases two scanned versions of a law, each with its own problem. You know how you can have two of (a) good, (b) fast, and (c) cheap, but not all three? Well, in some cases I can have two of (a) legible margins (that is, from a flat original), (b) bottom lines of text not cut off, or (c) consistent appearance (that is, all of the pages from the same “original” and not combined from two separate scans).

In an ideal world, we would go and search out the original and scan from there. But that’s not happening here. It isn’t an ideal world, we don’t have perfect resources, and these aren’t intended to be archival quality. (There IS a risk that they could be used as “oh, someone’s already scanned these, yay we don’t have to.”)

Here is an example of this situation. What would you do? 1. Use the scan with poor margins. (law 5-129) 2. Use the scan with the bottom of the first page cut off. (L5-129) 3. Use page 1 of the scan with poor margins and the rest of the pages from the other scan. 4. Throw it all together in a single PDF because the scan with the problem on the first page also doesn’t have page numbers.

L5-129 law 5-129


Notable DC Figures: John Ross

When I’m on track to be on time for work (which happens most of the time now that I have cats waking me up in the morning), my walk to work is filled with parents and their kids walking to John Ross Elementary School. Who was John W. Ross?

Ghosts of DC did the research for me: he was a Commissioner back in the days when the District was governed by a committee of three presidentially appointed Commissioners. Tributes published in the Washington Post following his death note that he had been a commissioner for 12 years and had been postmaster prior to serving as commissioner. He also served on the Board of Visitors of Providence Hospital.

In 1895, there was fevered discussion in the District about the reestablishment of a whipping post. Commissioner Ross, a democrat, opposed this. The other two commissioners at the time (Truesdell–a Republican–and Powell, whose party I haven’t come across in this research, who also both have schools named after them) did not express a personal opinion to the Washington Post reporter writing about the debate, but the Secretary to the Commissioners, Dr. Tindall, offered a comment that is as relevant today as it was 120 years ago: “I think that the resort to violence by a government is rather a confession of the weakness of its power than a dignified assertion of its rights.”


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a big West Wing fan. I popped the first DVD in last night and while pondering questions like “why is CJ being called about the president’s bike accident at 5 in the morning” and “how was it possible that people in DC didn’t know what ‘POTUS’ meant” realized that another of my long-standing early episode questions had a fairly obvious answer. In episode 2, the VP has returned from New York. Leo asks how the trip was and the VP responds with a comment about DC’s bond rating. Why the heck did the VP care DC’s bond rating? Because it was still the Control Board era. I should’ve realized.