Be a Plaque Detective: Help Sleuth Out the Final Details Regarding our World War II Plaque

Hopefully, you followed the media coverage of the detective work we did to identify a mystery plaque that had previously hung in the Wilson Building. We figured out that the plaque was a list of all DC government employees who had served in the military during World War II.  That plaque, damaged during its removal for a 1990s-era renovation, will be re-hung and re-dedicated in time for Veterans Day.

Despite our broader success in solving the mystery, there are still questions we are trying to resolve, and that is why we are asking for your help. We are hoping to crowdsource our way to what still remains to be discovered.

At the bottom of this page, we have provided links to every bit of the archival material we used to solve the plaque mystery. We are hoping you, our plaque detectives, can use this material as a jumping-off point to help close the gaps in our research.

Here are the items that we are seeking:

  • The holy grail of this research would be the rediscovery of the plaque’s original, and long-vanished, graphic top portion. Here is our best guess as to its appearance. It would be approximately 80 inches left to right and 20 inches top to bottom, on black glass, with gold lettering. It disappeared during the 1990s-era renovation of the Wilson Building.
  • Almost as phenomenal as finding this original plaque element would be finding any photograph of the plaque. Prior to our most recent research, there was only one known photo of the plaque.  Through our recent efforts, we uncovered a second. However, both photos show the plaque at a distance, and from an oblique angle. Any additional photo of the plaque would be a treasure to us, and could provide us with a wealth of additional information.

Here are some research paths we think might prove fruitful:

  • As you can see from the list of documents we provided, we pulled the Commissioners’ minutes for when the plaque was originally ordered (1942) and subsequently updated (1959). However, we have not been able to locate the paperwork surrounding the actual 1942 order placed with the manufacturer (Pittsburgh Plate Glass). This could include a sketch of the missing top plaque element, the original list of names on the plaque, or other useful details. Similarly, the actual 1959 order to the manufacturer for the update could also include a sketch, a photo of the existing plaque, etc.
  • Along those same lines, at some point between 1942 and 1959, likely near the War’s end, one or two enormous additional panels were added to the plaque to accommodate additional names. We do not know when this happened, so we do not have even the Commissioner minutes recording the authorization of this expenditure. These minutes could yield important information, as could the corresponding order itself (see above).
  • We have reached out to the archives of the plaque’s manufacturer, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They did some basic checking into our request, but some detailed on-site help could yield some new information.
  • We extensively checked the archives of the Post and the Star for coverage of the plaque. However, other publications (veterans’ organizations publications, African American papers, etc.) might yield additional information.

If you make any discoveries, or have questions about the research that has already been conducted, please feel free to contact Josh Gibson, Council Public Information Officer, at jgibson@dccouncil.us