Saturday, February 02, 2013

Timeless: Photos from Yesteryear

L.P. Hartley was right when he said: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

I have always loved old photos. There's something rather fascinating and morbid looking at photos of people and industries that have long since passed away. In that moment though, captured and preserved for future strangers to peruse, they still live, frozen in time.

These photos are from, a gorgeous website that contains photos from the Library of Congress archives. Here are some examples of what you can find on the site. The captions under the photos are pulled from the website.

September 1908 Gary, West Virginia “Drivers and Mules in a cola mine where much of the mining and carrying is done by machinery. Open flame on oil headlamps.”
From the Web site of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Museum of Anthracite Mining in Ashland.

It's strange to think that mining was still done this way in the 20th century. I love that their headlamps are actually just a lit flame!

December 1910 “Postal Telegraphy Messengers, Knoxville, Tennessee” Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

How young can these kids possibly be? I'm assuming this was before child labour laws although I do like their hats. 

February 1912. “Rear view of tenement, 134 ½ Thompson Street, New York City. Makers of artificial flowers live and work here.” Photography and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine.

It's difficult to believe this is real. It almost looks like a film set.

“Bring out yer rats”. Ferrets were used in turn of the century New York to track down rodents. Here is the result of one such hunt in 1908. You want to be dressed in a jacket and tie for this kind of work. From the George Grantham Bain Collection.

Were cats not a option for these guys? An interesting if somewhat gruesome job.

October 1942. Engine installers at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach California. Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer.

A publicity shot of course but doesn't it look awesome! 

May 21, 1910. "Joseph Severio, Peanut Vendor. Wilmington, Delaware. 11 years of age. Pushing cart 2 years. Out after midnight. Ordinarily works 6 hours per day. Works of own volition. Doesn't smoke. All earnings go to father." Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

Again, a child working from the age of nine, out late, probably working by himself. Jeez!

April 1943. "Viola Sievers, one of the wipers at the Chicago & North Western roundhouse, giving a giant "H" class locomotive a bath of live steam at Clinton, Iowa. Mrs. Sievers is the sole support of her mother and has a son-in-law in the Army." Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano.

Trains revolutionized travel for the world and this one's a monster. 

May 1910. Wilmington, Delaware. "Louis Birch, 4th & Pine Streets. Newsboy, 12 years of age. Just started selling. Made 10 cents one day. Father dead. While not under any compulsion to sell papers, Louis, of his own accord, took it up in order to help support his widowed mother. Louis stays out until 12:30 every night and goes with his brother, Stanley, who is a messenger, on all calls because Stanley is afraid to be out on the street alone at night. Louis is clean, bright and willing. Visits saloons. Don’t smoke. Works 9 hours per day. Gives money to mother." Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

I'm getting the distinct impression that none of these kids really had a childhood. Working from an early age in an adult job and it's heartbreaking that he's doing this to help out his family.

2 A.M. February 12, 1908. "Papers just out. Boys starting out on morning round. Ages 13 years and upward. At the side door of Journal Building near Brooklyn Bridge, New York." Photo and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine.

Look at how wide those papers are! My only introduction to newsies before this was the Disney musical so it's interesting to see a group of real kids. And look at that one kid smoking! I wonder why they would have started at 2am? Surely no one is out at that time to actually buy a paper.

Syracuse second varsity crew squad, June 11, 1914. View full size. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection.

There seem to be a lot of photos of rowing teams so it seems that rowing was a big thing. And these aren't your high tech, hydro dynamic boats and oars, this is old school, all the way.

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