About This Site

Shorpy.com is a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating. We’re starting with a collection of photographs taken in the early 1900s by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of a decade-long field survey for the National Child Labor Committee, which lobbied Congress to end the practice. One of his subjects, a young coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham, is the site’s namesake. Comments or questions? Drop us a note.

 
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Wood Scavenger: 1909
 

Ghost Cowboy  Scout’s Feet Sawed Off and other exciting tales of the Old West, in actual news accounts as they appeared in newspapers of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Turnpike Cruiser  Photos of the present-day West, with an emphasis on Arizona and Bisbee, and the Canadian Rockies.

PatentRoom  Patent illustrations from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Buy as prints.

Plan59  Retro 1950s illustrations. Cars! Happy wives! Demonic Tots!

Box of Apples  Fruit-crate art from the turn of the century, available as fine-art prints.

AdventureLounge  Aircraft patent drawings and early aviation history. Will it fly?

 

Shorpy Higginbotham: 1910

Shorpy Higginbotham: 1910

Shorpy Higginbotham, a “greaser” on the tipple at Bessie Mine, of the Sloss- Sheffield Steel and Iron Co. in Alabama. Said he was 14 years old, but it is doubtful. Carries two heavy pails of grease, and is often in danger of being run over by the coal cars. (Original caption.) Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. December 1910. Also see: Shorpy and His Friends and Shorpy at Work.

Shorpy and His Friends

Shorpy and His Friends

Shorpy Higginbotham, an oiler on the tipple at Bessie Mine near Dora in Jefferson County, Alabama. December 1910. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. To see the entire uncropped image click here.

Shorpy at Work: 1910

Shorpy at Work: 1910

“A greaser in a Coal Mine. Location: Bessie Mine, Alabama.” November 1910. View full size image or view Shorpy even bigger (cropped). This is, as far as we can tell, the first of only four photographs Lewis Wickes Hine took of Shorpy on his visit to the Bessie Mine late in 1910. (The others are here and here and here.) Almost 100 years after being taken, they retain a strange and startling immediacy even though their subject is almost certainly dead. In these sad, fading images of a little boy in his oil-soaked work clothes, Shorpy seems to be looking past the camera at us looking at him, invisible observers a century into the unknowable future seeing him in a way he never could have imagined. Who were you, Shorpy Higginbotham, and whatever became of you?

 
 
 
 
• Feb. 17  I’ve just finished the first content posting of almost three dozen images and I hope everyone (all three of you) finds something of interest. Be sure to click on the “view larger” links, especially on the group shots, so as not to miss out on the details. In the Indian Orchard shots, for instance, a lot of the kids (as in 10 years old) are smoking cigarettes or pipes, which is a detail that’s easy to miss on the 512px images. — Dave
 
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