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Friday, October 16, 2015

Flashback Friday: The Bonus Army, 1932

Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blog-a-thon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Bonus Army Camp, Anacostia, D.C., 1932. Dale/Patterson Family Collection,
Anacostia Community Museum Archives, gift of Dianne Dale.

The Dale/Patterson Family collection documents the personal and professional lives of the Dale and Patterson families who came to live in Hillsdale, Anacostia, an area of Washington, D.C., in 1892. However, the multi-generation family collection extends beyond family papers to include materials which document local and national events such as the Bonus Army. 

Known as the Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF) by its organizers and called the Bonus March by the media, the Bonus Army was organized by Walter W. Waters in 1932. The event brought black and white World War I veterans and their families to Washington, DC in the spring and summer of that year to demand early payment of their bonuses awarded by the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924. The veterans’ main camp was located at Anacostia Flats. One eyewitness in Dianne Dale’s publication The Village that Shaped Us, describes the event “We had Bonus Men roaming through the neighborhood, and the people would feed them. . .” Another observer commented, "... they all came here-from all over the United States and set up tents and huts and shacks along the Anacostia River. . ."

Thousands of veterans participated in this effort until President Hebert Hoover ordered the removal of all campsites after two veterans were killed on July 28th during a confrontation between local police and Bonus Army marchers. 

It wasn’t until 1936 that Congress approved the veterans’ bonus payment.

Jennifer Morris, Archivist
Anacostia Community Museum

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