Bathing Suit Police at the Tidal Basin

Here’s an amazing shot I found on Shorpy (what an amazing site), taken at the Tidal Basin bathing beach in 1922. The photograph is Washington police officer Bill Norton measuring the distance between the knee and the swimsuit. Colonel Sherrill, the Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds had issues an order that suits not be over six inches above the knee so young women would stay decent, while enjoying their summer swim.

Beach Policeman (1922)
Beach Policeman (1922)

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Haha 😀 I’ve seen that picture before! Reminds me of Catholic school when they used to measure your hair to make sure it wasn’t too long.

    Good stuff Tom! Can you imagine swimming in the Tidal Basin today? Btw, that entire area has a lot of little-known treasures, like the huge Olympic-sized swimming pool at Haines Point and from what I hear a small WWI memorial to soldiers from DC that is over-grown and hidden somewhere around the spaghetti of highways and bridges between the Tidal Basin and Haines Point.

    • Thanks! This one cracked me up…and no, I can’t imagine swimming there. I wonder when that stopped. 50s or 60s?

      • Definately by the 60s when the bikini was introduced and every cop in DC wanted the Tidal Basin beat !!

    • Kat Miller

      Fanny Foxe enjoyed a dip there in 1974!

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  • This is neat and before my time. However my friend, who died at 82 this summer, told me stories of a beach at the Tidal Basin. I had trouble believing him…in that dirty water??..His mother was the Life Guard there and apparently it was a hot spot to go back then. He was born in 1929 I think. Look at the two ring enter-tube (spelling?) on one of the girls, the bathing caps and of course the bathing suits. No Skinny Minnies there either..thin was not in..lol Looks like sand was there, thus the beach title.

    • Super-Gudge

      Your friend was born after the closing of Tidal Basin Beach. Tidal Basin Beach as it was known opened in 1918 then closed seven years later in 1925 the issue of desegregation! Not his mother was not a lifeguard. Your friend was born five years after the closing of the beach and if still living 85 years young today.

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  • Netstrider

    I just added this picture from 1922 at my Pinterest site; http://www.pinterest.com/pin/522699100473621073/

  • Jonny B.

    Hmm he seems all too pleased with that job. Yes hard to imagine a beach of any kind here in D.C. oh the things we missed. Then again, it’s not worth the trade for all the social progress we’ve made in the time since. Oh well.