Joseph West Moore's "Picturesque Washington": A Snapshot of D.C. in the 1880s

October 07, 2022

Joseph West Moore's "Picturesque Washington": A Snapshot of D.C. in the 1880s

In 1871, Georgetown, Washington City, and Washington County were united under a single territorial government by congressional act. This contributed to Washington's post–Civil War architectural boom. The growth was dominated by massive city-sponsored civil works projects that provided the city with many modern urban amenities and large-scale privately sponsored residential developments. 

With detailed prints and intriguing articles, Picturesque Washington by Joseph West More exposed readers and DC residents to all parts of their capital city. Moore went beyond just federal buildings and great monuments, to include places of commerce, recreation, work, and worship. The illustrations and articles in Picturesque Washington offer a historical snapshot of the nation’s capital in the 1880s, after a period of immense population and architectural growth. 

Picturesque Washington: Pen and Pencil Sketches by Joseph West Moore - title page and Capitol engraving

In the book, Moore acknowledges and celebrates this transformation. He writes, “In ten years from the time the Board of Public Works began its improvements, the city was transformed. The streets were covered with an almost noiseless, smooth pavement. Fifty thousand shade-trees had been planted; the old rows of wooden, barrack-like houses had given place to dwellings of graceful, ornate architecture; blocks of fine business buildings lined Pennsylvania Avenue and the other prominent thoroughfares; blossoming gardens and luxuriant parks were to be seen on all sides; the squares and circles were adorned with the statues of heroes, and bordered with costly and palatial mansions; splendid school-houses, churches, market buildings, newspaper offices had been erected. The water-works and sewer system were unequaled in the country. Washington had risen fresh and beautiful, like the Uranian Venus, from stagnation and decay.”

Picturesque Washington served as both travelog and travel guide to visitors to Washington and locals looking to explore more of their city. It was republished and reissued for several years due to strong demand and strong reviews. 

We are lucky to have a stunning 1884 edition, bound in decorative red, black, and gilt stamped brown cloth boards. It presents beautifully on a bookshelf, and with numerous fanciful engravings, it is a joy to read and explore. I invite our readers to consider adding this classic book to their personal collections. 

icturesque Washington by Joseph West Moore, published in 1884






Also in Blog

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Her
Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Her

January 30, 2023

Valentine's Day gifting for that special person in your life is easier than you think! We've rounded up nine great gift ideas for her. We've selected products made with intention, care, and quality materials, from some of our favorite American brands and independent makers.

View full article →

Edward S. Curtis: Preserving Indigenous History
Edward S. Curtis: Preserving Indigenous History

January 30, 2023

Edward S. Curtis created one of the most iconic visual records of the Indigenous peoples in the history of the photographic medium. His work shifted the way Indigenous people were viewed across the nation and have become an invaluable source for cultural and linguistic revivification. Learn more about him and his work in this week's blog. 

View full article →

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Him
Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Him

January 27, 2023

Valentine's Day gifting for that special man in your life is easier than you think! We've rounded up twelve great gift ideas. We've selected products made with intention, care, and quality materials, from some of our favorite American brands and independent makers. 

View full article →