Classic cherry blossom photos from the Library of Congress

March 22, 2013

The Cherry Blossom Queen is photographed at the Tidal Basin, March 28, 1939.  The temperature in Washington hit 86 degrees on March 26, 1939.  Original caption: Pretty Peggy Townsend, who will be crowned Cherry Blossom Queen at the festival to be held Friday, picked out a Cherry Tree to get her first glimpse of the beautiful blossoms in Potomac Park. (Library of Congress)

While awaiting the glorious bloom of the cherry blossoms, let’s enjoy some vintage images.  How did the world-famous cherry trees look 75+ years ago and how did the photographers of a bygone era frame their shots and subjects?

In addition, for those of us interested in weather and climatology, what were a few of the dates that Washington’s cherry blossoms peaked?  Was the bloom later than present day, or did it vary greatly from year-to-year?  Check out the photos with their associated dates and you can judge for yourself.


A scene of photographers shooting cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin while an artist draws or paints the blossoms.  This photograph was taken on April 7, 1922, the same year as the great Knickerbocker Snowstorm.  There was a 78 degree day on March 26, 1922 after a trace of snow fell on March 21 of that same year.  (Library of Congress)

The Cherry Blossom Queen poses for photographs, March 28, 1939.  There were three 80+ degree days  in March of 1939.  Original Caption: Peggy Townsend, pretty Washington Miss who will be crowned Queen of the Cherry Blossoms at appropriate ceremonies on Friday, was t’treed” by the photographers as she arrived to get a preview of the beautiful blooms in Potomac Park today.

Crowning the Queen of Cherry Blossoms, April 8, 1937.  March 1937 was cool, with the warmest temperature reaching 70 degrees on March 25.  Original caption: A colorful ceremony which attracted thousands of visitors to the Capital, little Sakiko Saito, daughter of the Japanese Ambassador and Mme. Saito, was crowned Queen of the Cherry Blossoms by Melvin Hazen, Commissioner of the District of Columbia. The festival was held to celebrate the anniversary of the presentation of the Japanese cherry trees to the capital by the citizens of Tokio, Japan during the Taft Administration. (Library of Congress)

A walk around the Tidal Basin with blossoms, April 5, 1941.  March of 1941 featured an early warm spell with 68 degrees recorded on March 3, but cool weather prevailed for the remainder of the month.  (Library of Congress)

A boat tour of the Tidal Basin with the cherry blossoms in full bloom, April 5, 1941. (Library of Congress)

This hand-colored photograph was taken several years after the March 27, 1912 gift of cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington.  The actual date of the photograph is unknown.  Note the small size of the trees.  (Library of Congress)

Cherry blossom photographs from the Theodor Horydczak Collection, date unknown.  The Lincoln Memorial (left), the Capitol (center), and the Washington Monument (right).  (Library of Congress)

Cherry blossom photograph from the Theodor Horydczak Collection, date unknown.  (Library of Congress)

Cherry blossom photograph from the Theodor Horydczak Collection, date unknown.  (Library of Congress)

A pleasant walk around the Tidal Basin during the 1920s with cherry blossoms in bloom.  Note the lack of crowds on the walkway around the Tidal Basin. (Library of Congress)

 


Cherry blossom photograph from the Theodor Horydczak Collection, date unknown. (Library of Congress)
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A. Camden Walker · March 22, 2013