This week on Georgetown Time Machine, GM is revisiting the Willard R. Ross postcard collection for a snapshot along the canal.
The photo is dated August 31, 1918, and is titled “One Bachelor Two Benedicts”. And the photo helpfully points out which one is the bachelor and which are the “benedicts”. This was a term GM was unfamiliar with, but it apparently was used to refer to married men who had been a bachelor for a long time. According to Merriam-Webster, it has Shakespearian roots:
Benedick is the chief male character in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing. Throughout the play, both Benedick and his female counterpart Beatrice exchange barbed comments and profess to detest the very idea of marriage, but the story eventually culminates in their marriage to each other. As a result, Benedick’s name came to be applied to men who marry later in life. The spelling was changed to benedict, possibly by association with a use of benedict meaning “bachelor” (although the evidence for this use is scant). Some early 20th-century usage commentators regarded the respelling as incorrect with regard to the etymology, but benedict has become the established spelling nevertheless. These days “benedict” is fairly uncommon and most typically encountered in historical sources and references.
The postcard gives no information for who these men are, and why their marital status is worth noting.
The boat behind is the Bartholdi canal boat. According to this history, it was a motor-powered canal boat that operated as an excursion vessel for a brief time in the early 20th century:
The Bartholdi was a large, Washington-based power boat active on the Canal for at least three years between 1916 and 1918. Berthed near Aqueduct Bridge, it offered chartered excursions to Cabin John, Glen Echo Amusement Park81 and the Great Falls and was a favorite of the Ramblers’ Pastime Club. This vessel should not to be confused with the steam launch Bartholdi which operated on the Canal and river during this same time period.
Here is an ad for the excursions appearing in the Washington Star just a few weeks before the photo:
The ad says the trips were on Sundays, but August 31, 1918 was actually a Saturday. Perhaps the boat was being rented out for a private party? Perhaps the bachelor on the left was soon to become a Benedict?