Historic Photographs Show Residents Registering for World War I at Park View School

From the Terence Vincent Powderly photographic print collection (The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives).

From the Terence Vincent Powderly photographic print collection (The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives).

Recently, I learned about a great collection of historic photographs housed at Catholic University — The Terence Vincent Powderly collection. It has many great images of the Petworth/Park View/Soldiers’ Home area from the late 1910’s. In perusing the collection, I found three from June 5, 1917, that document war registration at the Park View School at the start of World War I. Thus far, these are the only photographs I am aware of that show this event as it occurred in residential Washington.

According to Wikipedia, The Selective Service Act or Selective Draft Act authorized the federal government to raise a national army for the American entry into World War I through conscription. It was envisioned in December 1916 and brought to President Woodrow Wilson’s attention shortly after the break in relations with Germany in February 1917.

At the time of World War I, the U.S. Army was small compared with the mobilized armies of the European powers. As late as 1914, the federal army was under 100,000, while the National Guard (the organized militias of the states) numbered around 115,000. The National Defense Act of 1916 authorized the growth of the army to 165,000 and the National Guard to 450,000 by 1921, but by 1917 the federal army had only expanded to around 121,000, with the National Guard numbering 181,000.

From the Terence Vincent Powderly photographic print collection (The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives).

From the Terence Vincent Powderly photographic print collection (The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives).

To accomplish war registration in the District of Columbia, the city was divided into 41 districts. Using the eleven existing police precincts, each was further subdivided with a registration station in each district (see map below). Forty schools and one factory were selected as registration stations — with Park View School servicing Precinct No. 10E. It is this station that Powderly photographed on registration day.

By all accounts, registration day occurred in an orderly and patriotic fashion in Washington. Dozens of community celebrations were held during the day by the various citizens’ association of the District, which reached a climax at the large celebration at the Sylvan Theater in the Monument grounds in the afternoon.

By the end of the day, it was reported that 32,327 District men had enrolled as liable to conscription for war service. Additionally, the District carried off the honor of being the first territorial unit in the country to report its registration returns to the War Department … and along with Delaware and Vermont, the among the first to have completed and filed official war registration reports by June 7, 1917.

Districts and Stations for Registration on June 5

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4 Comments on “Historic Photographs Show Residents Registering for World War I at Park View School”

  1. Cliff Says:

    I guess Park View has always been a place to hang your hat.

  2. djdc Says:

    Great photos! I see that when you view the photos in the archives viewer, the caption reads “unidentified building.” Were you able to let someone at the CU archives know it’s the school? Maybe they can update the information at some point.

    • Kent Says:

      I’ve talked to the CU archives and they actually have more information on many of these images than is currently online. It is a long-term goal of theirs to update their database when they have an opportunity.


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