While inventorying some of our library’s duplicate books yesterday, I came across a few items that I found particularly entertaining, including the promotional book shown at left (I’ll get to that one at the end). Some readers may be familiar with my fondness for/mild obsession with the 1930s, which certainly helped these things catch my eye, but their usefulness is more than just era-specific (or, rather, more than just my-favorite-decade specific). Each presents a highly detailed snapshot of life in Montgomery County at a time when suburban development was just starting to kick in, and our demographics, economics and politics were entering a modern era.

This “Inventory of the County and Town Archives of Maryland” was prepared in 1939 by the Historical Records Survey (Baltimore), Division of Women’s and Professional Projects, Works Progress Administration. Basically, it summarizes the contents and location of county and town records, giving modern readers a glimpse at the scope of our government’s activities at the time. An introduction on our “Governmental Organization and Records System” includes helpful flow charts of various responsibilities, as well as floor plans (with rooms labeled, including bathrooms!) of county offices and courthouses. The rest of the book is wonderfully specific. For example, in the Attendance Officer section the origin, salary and duties of the job are described, followed by detailed record information such as: “Annual Reports (Principals’ and Teachers’), 1912 –. 2 file drawers, 17 file boxes (2 file drawers, 1932 – labeled by district nos.; 17 file boxes, 1912-31, dated by year).” Need to find one of those reports? “The attendance officer’s records, unless otherwise indicated, are kept in his office in the Montgomery County [now Richard Montgomery] High School.” Of course that doesn’t help today, but I love the image of Mr. Attendance Officer in his office at the high school, surrounded by file drawers and boxes.

Next, the “Annual Report of Receipts and Disbursements for Fiscal Period July 1, 1935 to June 30, 1936.” You’ll be happy to know that the County took in $4,446,501.35 and only spent $4,443,355.77. (And doesn’t our government wish it only cost $4.5 million to run the county today!) The list of disbursements is extremely specific – it looks like every check the county wrote that year – some examples:

Under the Board of Health Fund 1935 heading: Dr. V.L. Ellicott, Health Officer, was paid a salary of $2,299.92; one of the County Nurses, Martha Keys, made $1,025.76.

Under the Election Fund 1935: Mrs. Clara C. Holmes, Supervisor of Elections, was paid $600. Mary Somervell, a clerk, was paid $120. F. Byrne Austin received $59 for “hauling and erecting booths, etc.”

The Pension Fund is many pages long, and lists everyone in the county who received payments described variously as Pension, Old Age Relief, Old Age Pension, Ill Health Pension, Blind Pension, Widows Pension, Cripple Pension, Mothers Aid Pension, and Feeble Mind Pension, plus some bills for groceries, supplies, milk, and other items presumably distributed by the Welfare Board.

One of my favorite items can be found under the Police Fund 1935 heading: “Steinbergs Dept Store [a Rockville shop], Uniforms & Equipment – Shoes, Bodmer & Moxley, $10.00.” Earlier in the list the salaries for Roy Bodmer, Sergeant, and Floyd Moxley, Desk Clerk, are given. I’m glad they got shoes!

Well I could go on and on (ask my colleague Beth, she’ll tell you) about this great document, so let’s go back to the promotional pamphlet pictured at the top. There’s no publication date, but the photos and text put it at mid 1930s, the height of Montgomery County’s suburban growth during the New Deal. Washington was filled with new federal employees, and the surrounding counties wanted in on the economy-stimulating action. Hey, federal employees! Move to Montgomery County and spend some money! This book, published by Greater Montgomery County Inc., sings the praises of our fair county as the “Home Community of the Nation’s Capital,” filled with attractive homes, verdant lawns, top-ranked schools, abundant country clubs, etc. etc. (Seriously, there’s a two-page spread devoted to our country clubs.) This was hardly a new song, but the volume had increased, as it were. At any rate, this is one of my favorite things in our library, and I’ve used it in many an exhibit. I just love the cover, with its clear message: Wife and Son are safely and comfortably ensconced in their Maryland home, gazing fondly at the just-close-enough city where Husband works, awaiting the moment he can return home . . . and play a round of golf.

'We're awesome, and you should move here.'