Bike messengers by Lewis Hine

Percy Neville in the heart of the Red Light district. Just come out of one of the houses with message (which see in his hand).  He said gleefully "She gimme a quarter tip." . . .  Location: Shreveport, Louisiana.

Percy Neville in the heart of the Red Light district. Just come out of one of the houses with message . . . . He said gleefully “She gimme a quarter tip.” . . . Location: Shreveport, Louisiana.  1913.

Curtin Hines.  Western Union messenger #36. Fourteen years old.  Goes to school.  Works from four to eight P.M.  Been with W[estern] U[nion] for six months, one month delivering for a drug store. "I learned a lot about the 'Reservation' while I was at the drug store and I go there some times now." Location: Houston, Texas.

Curtin Hines. Western Union messenger #36. Fourteen years old. Goes to school. Works from four to eight P.M.  Been with W[estern] U[nion] for six months, one month delivering for a drug store. “I learned a lot about the ‘Reservation’ [red-light district] while I was at the drug store and I go there some times now.”  Location: Houston, Texas.  1913.

Messenger boy working for Mackay Telegraph Company.  Said fifteen years old.  Exposed to Red Light dangers.  Location: Waco, Texas.

Messenger boy working for Mackay Telegraph Company.  Said fifteen years old.  Exposed to Red Light dangers.  Location: Waco, Texas.  1913.

Earle Griffith and Eddie Tahoory, working for the Dime Messenger Service. They said they never knew when they were going to get home at night.  Usually work one or more nights a week, and have worked until after midnight.  They said last Christmas their office had a 9 yr. old boy running errands for them, and that he made a great deal of money from tips. They make about $7 a week and more, sometimes.  Said "The office is not allowed to send us into the red light district but we go when a call sends us.  Not very often." Location: Washington DC.

Earle Griffith and Eddie Tahoory, working for the Dime Messenger Service.  They said they never knew when they were going to get home at night.  Usually work one or more nights a week, and have worked until after midnight.  They said last Christmas their office had a 9 yr. old boy running errands for them, and that he made a great deal of money from tips.  They make about $7 a week and more, sometimes.  Said “The office is not allowed to send us into the red light district but we go when a call sends us.  Not very often.”  Location: Washington DC.  1912.

Selling during school hours, 10:30 A.M.  Location: Syracuse, New York.

Selling during school hours, 10:30 A.M.  Location: Syracuse, New York.  1910.

Wilbur H. Woodward, 428 Third St., NW, Washington, DC, Western Union messenger 236, one of the youngsters on the border-line, (15 yrs. old) works until 8 P.M. only.  Location: Washington DC.

Wilbur H. Woodward, 428 Third St., NW, Washington, DC, Western Union messenger 236, one of the youngsters on the border-line, (15 yrs. old) works until 8 P.M. only.  Location: Washington DC.  1912.

Eleven-year-old Western Union messenger #51.   J.T. Marshall.  Been day boy here for five months.  Goes to Red Light district some and knows some of the girls.  Location: Houston, Texas.

Eleven-year-old Western Union messenger #51. J.T. Marshall. Been day boy here for five months. Goes to Red Light district some and knows some of the girls. Location: Houston, Texas.  1913.

Danville Messengers.  The smallest boy, Western Union No. 5, is only ten years old, and is working as extra boy.  He said he was going to be laid off as the manager told him he was too young, but an older messenger told me the reason was that the other messengers were having him put off because he cuts into their earnings. Location: Danville, Virginia.

Danville Messengers. The smallest boy, Western Union No. 5, is only ten years old, and is working as extra boy. He said he was going to be laid off as the manager told him he was too young, but an older messenger told me the reason was that the other messengers were having him put off because he cuts into their earnings. Location: Danville, Virginia.  1911.

Manley Creasson, 914 W. 6 St. Messenger #6, Mackay Telegraph Co. Says he is 14; school records say 13. Says he has steady job-- "Been a messenger for years. Get $15 for 2 weeks' pay."  Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Manley Creasson, 914 W. 6 St. Messenger #6, Mackay Telegraph Co. Says he is 14; school records say 13. Says he has steady job– “Been a messenger for years. Get $15 for 2 weeks’ pay.” Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  1917.

Since these boys stared into Lewis Hine’s camera a century ago, the status of American children has improved in some ways but not others.  Back then, children were prone to become whatever the economic situations of their families required.  The children of farmers were often pressed into lives of drudgery, while others followed the trend of modernization, working in the street trades if they were city dwellers, or in mills, mines, and factories, all to stave off the want of individual and family poverty.

At the time, millions of children worked, sometimes at the expense of attending school.  According to Robert Whaples of Wake Forest University, in 1900, 26.1 percent of all American boys aged 10-15 held a job of some kind. (The percentage of girls that age who worked was much lower.)  Progressive reformers worked to restrict child labor, pointing out the harms–whether physical, mental, or moral–that work could have on such young people.

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) photographed thousands of child workers during his sixteen-year tenure with the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC).  Besides taking photographs, he talked with his subjects and took notes, information that later found its way into the captions and into investigative reports for the Committee.  Over five-thousand of these NCLC photographs survive.  Boys who were messengers for the telegraph company or for drug stores were among those working in the various street trades.

Hines focuses on the hardships and on the boys’ unfortunate and degrading exposure to vice, but he also captures the boys’ satisfaction and pride.  Some sit beaming on their bikes, or nonchalantly showing off their uniforms, proud to be making it, to be doing something, proud even of ferrying across the boundary between right and wrong.

They exude a different sort of mentality than impoverished youth of today, who have no legitimate means of escaping or redressing the poverty and crime that envelop their families.

All images courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Click here to see more of Hine’s photographs.


Library of Congress Unveils Rare Civil War-Era Views

Fort Moultrie, No. 9 (Robin Stanford Collection, the Library of Congress)
The Library of Congress has acquired hundreds of rare stereographic views from Robin G. Stanford, a Houston woman whose collection focuses on the Civil War era and the South during and after the period it practiced slavery. Continue reading

An early aerial view of the University of Chicago

Aerial panoramic view of the Quads taken from west of Ellis Avenue.
George R Lawrence was a pioneer whose specialty was panoramic aerial photography.  A native of northern Illinois, he invented the means to take high-quality “bird’s eye” views using a camera hoisted aloft with balloons or kites.  His most famous photographs are of a ruined San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, but he also photographed Chicago, its waterfront and factories, and various towns nearby. Continue reading

Seattle’s Arboretum

 The undulating path through the center of the Arboretum blooms with cherry blossoms, crabapples, and magnolias in March.
While in Seattle, my husband and I visited the arboretum, which is easy to get to by cab from downtown.  At this time of year, it’s the place to visit—far better than any market or museum. Continue reading

City

Aerial view of Minneapolis on a late winter day.
I hope you can forgive me for not publishing any text with this photograph when I posted it this morning.  I find it difficult to blog when I’m traveling.  And sometimes it’s more difficult than I expect to explain a photograph’s meaning or appeal.  This one, with its complex array of shades and shapes, is beautiful and engrossing on its own terms.  It’s an almost abstract aesthetic pleasure, contemplating the swirl of low roofs around the crisp black and blue skyscrapers, the scatter of boxy towers each with its own quirks and tonalities.  I enjoy the fact that many of the lower buildings, like the massive red sandstone church in the lower left corner, or what I think must be the convention center at center right, are nearly as distinct and impressive as the taller towers.  The crispness comes from the trees being all bare and dry.  There is a dynamism and beauty here that I don’t associate with Minneapolis at all.

Yet every time I come here, I find something else that I like, whether it’s the Normandy Best Western, the Global Market, the Marquette Hotel, or Minnehaha Falls.  My sister and her family are here, and more recently my parents: I’ve learned to see the city through their eyes.  And sometimes I’ve taken some good photographs, whether of the Como Park Conservatory or the bookstore Wild Rumpus.

They Partied On

Frances Benjamin Johnson, "Inaugural decorations, McKinley Inauguration, Pension Building" (Courtesy Library of Congress)
On the evening of March 4, 1901, men and women in formal dress began drifting in to the Pension Building to attend the inaugural ball for William McKinley, who had been sworn in to his second term as president earlier that day.  The cavernous Great Hall of the Pension Building had been lavishly decorated for the occasion.  Guests were nearly lost in its magnificence: the endless garlands of lights, the immense stretch of polished floor, the massive stone columns stretching up to a ceiling over a hundred feet high.  Overhead a gold-draped canopy glowed, reflecting the elegant incandescence below.

It was the one-hundredth anniversary of the first inaugural ceremonies to take place in Washington City, and the ball’s organizing committee intended to make it the most spectacular of any.  The official souvenir program they got up preserves the essence of what they wanted to achieve.

THE INAUGURAL BALL

With each recurring inauguration of a President of the United States the festivities in which the people of the nation join are carried out on an ever increasing scale of elaborateness and grandeur.  This year, as on several occasions in the past, the inaugural ball will be held . . . in the Pension Office building. . . . The magnificent court of this immense building affords suitable accommodations for the thousands who gather to make notable this great social feature of the induction of a Chief Executive into an office, which is the highest a republic can give.

The inaugural ball is a time-honored and always enjoyable function.  The newly announced President attends with the members of his personal and official family, and leads the opening grand march.  It forms a fitting and spectacular climax to a day of so much importance to the whole people.  It is confidently expected that the ball this year will be the most resplendent, the most inspiring scene of gayety that has yet marked an inauguration.  Over $18,000 has been spent alone in decorations, bunting, electricity, and flowers being the component parts of a scheme, which surpasses in glory of embellishment and detail the dreams of Oriental royalty.

The general color effect will be a most delicate shade of yellow known as old ivory.  The ceiling will be a canopy of gracefully looped bunting, studded with innumerable incandescent lights burning within frosted glass.  There will be no glare of dazzling arc lights, but an artistic mellow glow from the incandescent bulbs.  The balconies which surround the court, the grand columns that reach from the tiled floor to arching roof, will all be decorated lavishly by the most skilled artisans.   . . . This year American Beauty roses, rare orchids, and thousands of yards of twining vines . . .  form the basis of the floral scheme.

The US Marine Band was slated to play a special program of promenades.  A 125-piece orchestra was also on hand to play dance music throughout the night.  Admission to the ball was $5 a ticket, while tickets to the buffet were an additional $1 each.

On arriving, President McKinley and his family, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and his family, were first shown to private suites of rooms off the Great Hall before emerging to lead the grand opening march.  President McKinley and his wife Ida were admirable figures, but the night really belonged to the new vice-president Teddy Roosevelt and his wife Ethel, whose youth and glamor threatened to eclipse the president entirely.  Roosevelt’s reputation as heroic leader of the ‘Rough Riders’ who helped liberate Cuba from Spain had endowed him with universal celebrity.  His very presence reminded everyone of the nation’s recent military triumph, further stoking the celebratory mood of the ball that night.

Image by noted photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Click here to go to the source.

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