Ephemera Ads Interest to Local Histories

Arcade Sunshine Matchbook ca. 1921-1938

There are many ways to get some sense of what life was like in Washington’s past. Two obvious ways are in looking at old photographs and reading old newspapers. Additional insight can be gleaned from historic ephemera, such as old matchbooks. I’ve chosen a few here from the Arcade Sunshine Laundry that was located at 713-731 Lamont Street, NW. I’ve previously posted a brief history of this laundry which people can read here>>

What is interesting about ephemera is that it was never intended to be kept or saved, and as such it’s a small miracle whenever you find an item. As an example, the the first matchbook here dates to sometime between 1921 and 1938. While the date is not obvious, it can be loosely figured out by looking at the phone number COL. 8010. In reviewing newspaper ads, this number was associated with the main office at the Lamont Street plant during its first years.

It is also interesting to see the artwork on the matchbook, which depicts moths and an advertisement for cold air garment storage.

The next two matchbooks date to the period between 1939 and 1952, again suggested by the phone number of RAndolph 8000. After 1952, the number listed is RAndolph 6-8000.

Arcade Sunshine Matchbook ca. 1939-1952

Inside of matchbook listing cleaning services

What is noteworthy about the above matchbook and the one that follows is that the inside lists the full range of services offered by the cleaners. Some of my favorites are fur cleaning, fire-proofing, and rug reweaving.

Like the earlier matchbook, moth-proofing is among their many services. Still, focus of this matchbook is very general.

Sunshine Arcade matchbook ca. 1939-1952

The last example (left) focuses entirely on furniture cleaning and storage. What is particularly interesting about this last matchbook is that it advertises a service that just isn’t commonly done these days … professional, off-site furniture cleaning.

A service of particular note — upside down to the left — is that Arcade Sunshine would pick up your furniture while you moved, clean it, and deliver it to your new address. While I’m sure such a service wasn’t inexpensive, I wonder how it compared to paying movers.

As with the other matchbook from this period, this one also has a list of services on the inside. This one lists a full range of fees for cleaning upholstered furniture. To gain a better understanding of the approximate cost in today’s dollars, I used an inflation calculator and chose 1945 as a starting point. Then, choosing the cost of cleaning an upholstered couch, which is listed as $7.50 below, the calculator returns a value of $91.76 in today’s currency. You can do similar calculations by using the U.S. Inflation Calculator located here>>

List of fees for cleaning upholstry, ca. 1939-1952


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7 Comments on “Ephemera Ads Interest to Local Histories”

  1. j Says:

    great post!

  2. Matchbooks then were so much more interesting. Because they’re mass produced now, most just have some boring old logo. The old ones have quaint little designs.

  3. […] covers from the Arcade Sunshine Laundry that was located at 713-731 Lamont Street, NW since March 2011, but I continue to find a wide variety of matchbooks distributed by the company. From what […]

  4. Hello colleagues, nice paragraph and nice arguments commented here,
    I am really enjoying by these.

  5. […] on Lamont Street between Georgia and Sherman. Other items I’ve found include matchbook covers and golf […]

  6. Leslie Rozzi Says:

    I have a cotton laundry service bag that belonged to my grandparents. Both born in 1888, they met and married and lived in the DC area suburbs. My grandfather, Thaddeus R. Goldsborough, was an attorney and this was his laundry bag he must have used when having his suits, etc. cleaned. My father had this laundry bag amongst some of their belongs passed of which was passed down to me. I always loved vintage printed textiles and I knew I wanted to have this piece when I grew up. I just happed to look up the cleaning service and came upon this article. Very interesting indeed. I want to post the picture of my bag but there is no attachment option.
    Leslie Goldsborough-Rozzi
    Colorado Springs

    • Leslie Rozzi Says:

      I should have clarified that the laundry bag I have that was my grandfather’s was from Arcade-Sunshine he used when dropping off his clothes and suits sometime between the 20’s and 30’s. It does have the RAndolph 8000 number on the it.

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