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Business High School

Washington, District of Columbia


Business logo_edited.jpg

E-Travel has the 1919 Orange and Blue yearbook.  Washington newspapers that carried news from the school included the Evening Star, the Times, the Herald and the Post.  The logo is from the yearbook.


In 1877 Washington High School added a commercial course to the curriculum. In 1890, as one means of addressing overcrowding in the schools, the district added an experimental business high school with four teachers and more than 100 students.  The one-year course of studies included bookkeeping, shorthand, typing, English, commercial law, and commercial arithmetic. There was an optional second year for those wishing additional training.  A Delsorte gymnastics class was also part of the curriculum. Within a year the business school added a night school to accommodate students unable to attend during the day.  By 1897 there were “nearly one hundred” graduates, and by 1905 that number had reached 165.  By 1912 Business High School had become the largest high school in the district with an enrollment exceeding 1,000 students.


In 1907 the course was extended to four years. While students could still opt for the basic one-year program, they now could extend their technical knowledge and skills with additional course work in auditing, advanced accounting, business organization, commercial and industrial history, biology, chemistry, physics, and modern languages.


In 1911 Business High School chartered the first student bank in the United States.  In addition to training students for a banking career, the bank provided students with opportunities to set up savings accounts, and handled school funds from athletics, dramatics, and the school publications.  During World War I, it also sold Liberty Bonds.


In its first year B.H.S. discovered that a large pool of musical talent existed among its students, resulting in a glee club and a girls’ octet.  By 1894 newspapers mention a school orchestra; a one-act farce performed at commencement led ultimately to an annual spring play; a freshman debate performance led to the Daniel Webster Club.  1894 saw the first issue of the “Balance Sheet,” the school newspaper.


In 1932, when Theodore Roosevelt High School was built to replace the overcrowded Business High School, the district determined that the new school would have a college preparatory curriculum.

Bricks and Mortar

Classes opened in the Strong John Thomson Building at 1024 12th Street.  This 1869 building had been enlarged in 1877, but proved far too small for the number of students.  In 1892 the Business High School moved to the Miner Building on 17th street.  Also a three-story brick structure, it had been built with private funds in 1877 to house black elementary, high school, and normal school students.  Too small for that purpose, it quickly became too small for the business school.


In 1895 the business school was moved to the dilapidated District Building at 1st Street NW. Refurbished, it provided 14 rooms, with four more added later.  Finally in 1905, the school moved into a new building at 9th and Rhode Island, created expressly as a business school.  Built to hold 800 students, it featured a gymnasium with running track and an assembly hall with stage, both measuring 90 by 54 feet.  It contained typing rooms, drawing rooms, a library, and a bank. 


None of these four buildings exist today.

Business classroom_edited.jpg

An 1899 classroom scene at Business High School.  The classroom would have been in the District Building.  Note the space set aside for a bank.  The male students in uniform are part of the school's cadet corps.  Image is from the Library of Congress  (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division/LOT 2749, no. 071 Digital Id: cph 3a46075 // Library of Congress Control Number: 2001697366)


            Team name: Stenographers

            School Colors: Orange and Blue


In 1894 Business High School played football against Central High School, Orient Athletic Club, and Columbia Athletic Club, losing all three games.  B.H.S. soon became a member of the public high school athletic association, playing against Central, Western, Eastern, and McKinley Tech.  The Stenographers played Columbian College in 1895 and the Maryland Aggies (now the University of Maryland) in 1896.  Later college opponents would include Gallaudet, St. John’s, Rock Hill and Mount St. Joseph.  In 1896 newspapers reported that not all B.H.S. players were students at the school.

Business basketball_edited.jpg

The Stenographers played basketball with more success.  The 1916-17 team swept through the league with no losses.  B.H.S. also fielded a baseball team. The school operated a strong intramural program in basketball for both boys and girls. 

(Left) The 1918-19 Scholastic champions.  Undefeated in league play, the team compiles a 16-5 overall record.  Image from the 1919 Orange and Blue.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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