A Glimpse of Another Christmas

Washington DC market scene by E. B. Thompson (Courtesy DC Library via the Commons on Flickr)

E.B. Thompson was a successful photographer active in Washington DC in the early decades of the 20th century.  Thompson, who was probably born around the time of the Civil War, gained prominence around the same time as Theodore Roosevelt; indeed, the Rough Rider may have been Thompson’s chief patron.  Readers may recall reading this post about Thompson’s 1899 photograph of the coffins of American war dead awaiting burial at Arlington Cemetery.

Besides documenting the political scene, Thompson created and preserved many other pictures—photographs and stereographsof everyday life in the District and other subjects of local and personal appeal.  Among them was this picture of a turn-of-the-century open-air market, taken around Christmastime, as you can see.

Evidence internal to the photograph (such as the clothing and shutter speed) suggests it was taken no earlier than 1905.  Prints of the original image were then colorized for sale.  The color does a lot to draw us back into that earlier time.

Image: from this source.

4 responses

  1. Fantastic and powerful image in its glimpse of routine life. I wonder if this was the old Central Market in Washington – the Post Office Building was built a few years before that, under McKinley, and reduced the size of the shopping area there.

  2. Carl,
    Thanks for the informative and suggestive comment. I don’t know DC well enough from memory to say for sure. But I suggested on the Flickr page for this image that it might be possible to deduce the exact location from clues in the picture (such as the wrought-iron fence and the tall tower in the distance at the right). Now that you mention the Central Market, I notice a little bit of a turret on the left-hand side. Compare that to another Thompson image of the North Central Market that I used to illustrate an earlier post:
    Do you think the buildings are the same?
    You may have solved the puzzle!
    All the best,