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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

Shorpy Higginbotham: 1910

Shorpy Higginbotham: 1910

December 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." Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine.

 

Reminders

Thanks to you all for these incredible photos--wonderful work! Some remind me of my own childhood in the south and I have photos, too. My grandmother worked in a textile mill when she was 12, around 1912, never had much schooling, and married at 16. She told me stories of the Depression, when she had 6 children to raise by herself. A wonderful person who was a huge presence in my life, esp when my mother died in 1948, poor and in ill health. In 1955, my first job was at the five and dime at age 14 on Fri night and all day Sat for a grand total of $4.50.

Thank you again for the reminders of how it used to be, although I wouldn't want to repeat history.

My 2 cents worth

I'm just a pup here, having only been on board for a year and a half. Thank you Dave, Ken, tterrace and all who do such a great job on this site.

To all the Shorpyites who add so much extra via comments, links and other added information, you all get a big "Attaboy". Thanks to one and all.

Happy birthday!

The best photo blog

I'm so glad you've kept it going. Yours is the best one out there. I enjoy how your selection of photographs cover the gamut. They may be from a particular era but not from a particular style or emotion.

A treat each and every day

A great website that really is quite a treat each day,and I never can wait until another post,and the comments are always entertaining. Thank you for 5 years of hard work. I know I used to blog and I know it's something you dedicate yourself to.

Thanks for a Great Five Years

Your very skilled and hard work, along with your thoughtful selection of the right moments from the past is greatly appreciated, Thank You!
George Widman

Daily Dose

Happy Birthday Shorpy! You are a part of my daily ritual since you began and I look forward to checking this site as often as time permits. I've learned a great deal since you began these wonderful posts. Thanks gang, and many more!

Happy Birthday, Shorpy.com!

I've been visiting since day one, so what else can I say? I love this site! Keep up the great work!

Happy Birthday Shorpy!

Thank you for diligently updating and uploading. I know it takes a lot of time to run a website like this, and I for one am grateful for your efforts, Dave.

Thank you!

Shorpy Higginbotham: 1910

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. For those who have not seen it, here is my story of Henry Sharp Higginbotham.

Click here.

Bessie Mine

I live a few blocks from the mine. It was just off Rt 150 in Bessemer. The mine complex was left intact and abandoned since the 1950's until the buildings were cleared in 2009. I did photograph it before it was destroyed.

RE: Shorpy/Dewey

This is awesome. I think a Shorpy movie is now very necessary.

He really does look like him!

WOW! You are sooo right! I hope someone makes a movie about Shorpy, that's one I'd pay to see.

Shorpy/Dewey

If they ever did a movie about him, he could have been played by the same kid that played Dewey in "Malcolm In the Middle."

Roy Higginbotham

>> Was your father the Roy Higginbotham who was principal of Minor Elementary School in the 60's and 70's?

That particular Roy Higginbotham was not my father, although I had heard about him from my cousins who still lived in the area. No doubt he is related in some way. My father (Roy) was also a coal miner in his younger days like his father and uncles. He died in 1961 at the age of 46. I remember my grandfather John talking about his brother "Sharpe" and how someone "took his picture" when he was a young boy working in the mines. Sorry it took so long for me to reply.

Feel sorry for us!

>> Looking at these pictures, I don't feel sorry for the people in them as I don't think they knew how "bad off" they were.

I don't feel sorry for them either. I feel sorry for us, the younger generations. We have no idea what real, consistent hard work is. With the way things are going I desperately want to know someone who has lived the hard life, maybe lived through the Depression but no one is around to glean from. I just turned 33 years old but I see the wisdom in searching out the generation. I have even written my husbands Grandmother for advice but she is too busy to share her knowledge. I don't wish evil for our great country but it might do us some good to have to experience hardship to get our act together. For me, I grew up without hot water, sometimes the electric was shut off, rarely a car and I can tell many a story about cleaning clothes in a wringer washer in the middle of Missouri's wicked winter temps - outside at that. But I still know I have so much more to learn.

Clyde Donald Higg

I am also related to the Higg from Va, and also the ones from Ireland. I just loved this about Shorpy Higg. I am still trying to locate more information on the Higg from Ind. where my father was from, his father was Luther, and his father was George. My father's name was Clyde Donald Higg.

cindykpiper@aol.com

[So you mean Higg, or Higginbotham? - Dave]

Bessie Mine Location

Roy Higginbotham

Was your father the Roy Higginbotham who was principal of Minor Elementary School in the 60's and 70's?

martyshoemaker@hotmail.com

Then and Now

I don't want to go back to the "good old days." But everybody should "work" at least a few days (e.g. move a lot of force through a lot of distance all day while either sweating or freezing, dirty, dog-tired, with something aching). Maybe a kid who did some of this stuff will better appreciate the real things in life rather than Britney, American Idol, text messaging, and Fifty-Cent rap.

I'm glad i did - but not too much! In my younger days, I harvested tobacco, hauled hay, milked cows, moved gravel from a creek bed to the barnyard in a mule wagon, picked potatoes behind a mule plow, budded peach seedlings and harvested nursery stock on cold rainy January days. These are cherished memories working with my kinfolk on their farms. I'm glad I did it!

I've rolled cement up a hill in a wheelbarrow and finished it, framed and built buildings, plumbed and wired, and swapped greasy motors in cars. It all pays off as I can save money as a do-it-yourselfer. And it paid off as an incentive to study and go to college so I didn't have to do it for a living!

Looking at these pictures, I don't feel sorry for the people in them as I don't think they knew how "bad off" they were. So they were not! However, I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for our hard-working ancestors, my aunts and uncles, and cousins.

Bessie Mine

Bessie Mine appears to be closed. Information available online shows that the current owner, US Pipe, has filed an application to use the area as a landfill.

My grandfather worked at Bessie and other mines in west Jefferson County. He would have been about Shorpy's age but didn't start to work there until he was 18 or so. After a couple of years working in the pits, he was able to get a position tending the generators and never had to work underground again.

Bessie Mine?

One of the first posters said that Bessie Mine may still be operational. Is that true? When I look it up online, nothing much comes up. I'd love to see some more pictures of the mine, though, and learn a little more about it!

Shorpy

I found him, he is one of my cousins. Henry Sharp Higginbotham b 23 Nov 1896 d. 25 jan 1928, son of Felix Milton Higginbotham and Mary Jane Graham. We descend from the Amherst Co. Virginia Higginbothams. my line was Benjamin Higginbotham who m. Elizabeth Graves and d. 1791 in Elbert Co. GA. Then his son Francis Higgginbotham m. Dolly Gatewood. When they were in old age they moved with with their sons to the new Louisiana Territory, E. Feliciana Parish. My gggfather was Caleb Higginbotham and gggmother was Minerva Ann Bryant of the Manakintown, VA hugenot BRIANT. All the Higginbothams and Bryant sons fought in the Rev. War. My gggg William Guerant Bryant and his brother John, his father, James and Uncle Isaac and Isaac's son James and His Uncle Thomas were all in the battle of Guilford Court House NC 25 Mar 1781. Thomas was killed and Isaac wounded in the head.

Shorpy, descendant of Revolutionary War Soldier

Shorpy was my father's (Roy Higginbotham's) uncle, a younger brother of my grandfather, John W. Dolphus Higginbotham. Their ancestor Robert Higginbotham was a Revolutionary War soldier who fought in the Battle of King's Mountain. He died in Huntsville, Alabama, where he farmed for many years. He is buried on his farm and the Huntsville D.A.R. had a ceremony a few years ago at his grave site. There is another Robert B. Higginbotham (also a descendant of Robt. Sr.), buried in Remlap, Alabama, I think, but I don't recall him having an intact headstone.

[P.H., thanks for the information. You have a fascinating family history. - Ken]

Shorpy Higginbotham

I wonder if anyone knows where Shorpy Higginbotham's grandfather, Robert Higginbotham, is buried.
Robert Higginbotham is my Great Great Grandfather.

Kenny Brown
twotreesklb@aol.com

This was before welfare

America is still the greatest place in the world to give. I have traveled to a lot of countries. Yes, they have their pluses, but even the poorest americans live better than 99% of the worlds population.

Shorpy's contemporaries

A ten-year-old working in the mines was not unusual. My grandfather was born in 1896 and started in the mines at age ten. He worked for Tennessee Coal and Iron in Jefferson County, Alabama. After his back was broke in a mine accident and suffering from years of black-lung he lived to 84.

So great wonder!

Really I'm so scare about you beautiful eye-moment, serious, I think in a lot of stuff's, that amazing like a time capsule... Don't have the exactly words for tell you my reasons... make my day theses snaps.

I hope back soon.
Carlos "Cx"

picture from a greaser kid...

... cause of his size he was able to easily go inside all the mechanics stuff.. they see it as a game... some great technologics developments were the outcome of that work-players boys... thats the good one... the bad one is that some of them never play again...

Lest we forget

It is easy to forget from the perspective of our comfortable North American lifestyles that in many places in the world, child labor still runs rampant, not because families want their children to work endless hours in deplorable conditions, but because their very existence depends on the meager income the children earn. Let's not become too complacent and self-satisfied that we've "progressed" beyond the conditions of the early 20th century until we've globally eradicated those same conditions that continue to exist today.

Shorpy and child labor

The pictures were taken only 30 years before I was born.
When I was 14 I needed a State of California Work Permit in order to get a summer job (picking cotton).

We could quit school at 16. I didn't do that but many did.
Thank God for the reformers in the early 20th century!

"The golf links lie so near the mill that almost every day, the working children can look out and watch the men at play."

Don

omg. after seeing these

omg. after seeing these pictures, its so hard to believe how far we have gone and what todays world is like compared to back then. The question is, what would they think if they saw what the world was like today and how people are living?!

(perfect example, we now have cars that drive for us!!!)

Notice His Hands...

You can tell Shorpy worked very hard. His hands look like the hands of a 40 year old man, not a 14 year old boy. His arms do appear to be permanently bowed out and his shoulders are sloped from carrying the heavy buckets.

How we could ever have gotten to this point in our society is beyond me. Thank goodness for the progressive people back then who put a stop to such practices and gave kids like Shorpy their childhoods.

His arms

Those are the roughest part--it appears that they're rather permanently in that position.

Shorpy story

The story about this boy makes me so sad. The photo is so strong. Esthetically - wonderful - artistic movie like.
Thanks for sharing it with all of us. Tamara Razov.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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