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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 08/ 2/2010

Rediscovering a classic Washington weather photo

By Kevin Ambrose

* Tropical depressions forms in Atlantic: Hurricane Tracking Center *
* Mostly cloudy today, heating up tomorrow: Full Forecast *

A yellow, torn, and taped page from the December 6, 1927 issue of the Washington Post displaying a photo taken after the Blizzard of 1899. The newspaper caption stated, "THE GREAT BLIZZARD, which swept into Washington February 11, 1899 brought the temperature down to 15 degrees below zero." The Post printed a page recapping the Blizzard of 1899 after the season's first snowstorm on December 4, 1927. I photographed the aging newspaper at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in June of 1993. It became one of my favorite weather shots of Washington.

This is a story of discovery and rediscovery of a classic Washington weather photo. The above photo was published on December 6, 1927 in The Washington Post and shows a young boy posing confidently next to a massive snowdrift on H Street, with his family standing in the background. The photo was taken a day or two after "The Great Blizzard" of February 13, 1899.

I first discovered this photo 17 years ago in an aging copy of the Washington Post printed on December 6, 1927 while I was researching historic weather photos. I copied the faded and grainy newspaper photo with permission and it has been republished multiple times over the past 17 years. This summer, Ian Livingston and I discovered the original photograph stored in the archives of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The original photo is particularly crisp and clear and it has much more resolution than the faded newspaper version from the Post. I ordered a high resolution scan of the photograph for use in future publications and for use in this post.

Keep reading to see the original photo and to learn more about the how these photos were discovered.

Ian Livingston and I were researching Washington weather photos at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and found the original copy of the Blizzard of 1899 snow drift photo, almost 17 years after I found the same photograph published in a 1927 copy of the Washington Post. This photo is crisp and clear, unlike the grainy newsprint reproduction.

This story begins in April 1993, a month following the "Storm of the Century" which blasted the Washington region on March 13, 1993 with copious amounts of snow and sleet. The well-forecast and hyped storm made national headlines and inspired me to write a book about memorable Washington snowstorms. This was a time before the Internet and weather data were not widely available to the public.

To begin my snowstorm book project, I made a trip to the Martin Luther King Library to research historic weather photos. The librarian showed me folders of photos archived under the subject matter "snow" and "winter." On my second trip to the library, the librarian mentioned he had an old copy of The Washington Post which had a very unique snow photo. He showed me the copy of the December 6, 1927 newspaper which had a snow drift photo from the Blizzard of 1899.

It was a unique photo and I filled out the paperwork to make a copy for publication. This photo has become one of my favorite weather shots of Washington and I have republished it multiple times. I even placed an 8x10 glossy print in an antique frame and it has been sitting on my fireplace mantel for over 15 years.

The newspaper version of the photo was published in my first book, "Blizzards and Snowstorms of Washington, D.C." with all its imperfections. I republished the photo in my second book, "Washington Weather," with help from Adobe Photoshop to remove the imperfections. The Photoshop version looked much better, but it still lacked the crisp resolution of a high quality photo.

A close-up of the faces from February 1899 next to a massive snowdrift. The original photo has very good resolution.

This summer, while I was researching weather photos with Capital Weather Gang's Ian Livingston, we found the original Blizzard of 1899 photo at the Historical Society of Washington. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see the original photo more than 17 years after I first viewed the photo in the 1927 Post newspaper. Going forward, I will use this version of the photo in publications. I will not, however, replace the yellow, grainy newspaper version of the photo that is still framed on my fireplace mantel. It reminds me of when I first discovered the photo and this classic scene from the Blizzard of 1899.

By Kevin Ambrose  | August 2, 2010; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Local Climate, Photography, Winter Storms  
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Love it! But those poor kids don't have on coats where as their parents are all bundled up! LOL.

Nice to have a reminder of snow as we melt away during this record summer.

Kim in Manassas

Posted by: ksrgatorfn1 | August 2, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Any notation on the photo (or guess) as to where exactly it was taken?

Posted by: dhb2 | August 2, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I seriously doubt that's a snowdrift. It's more likely a pile of snow shoveled off the sidewalk (which you will note is clear).

Posted by: MrDarwin | August 2, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

dhb2: the photo was taken near the Government Printing office, next to North Capitol Street.

MrDarwin: the original caption from the 1927 Washington Post stated it was a snow drift. Most likely, it's a combined pile of snow from shoveling layered on top of a snow drift. The drifts with the storm were documented to be up to 10'.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | August 2, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

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