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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 TOY DEPARTMENT, 1913

Hiawatha Temple: 1908

Hiawatha Temple: 1908

St. Paul, Minnesota, circa 1908. "Wabasha Street." Abundantly equipped with the standbys that Shorpians will recognize as essential to a smoothly functioning business district: fraternal organization, painless dental parlors, purveyors of cigars and prosthetic eyeballs, optician-jeweler (with the 8:17 clock-sign) and, last but not least, "Business Men's Lunch (And 2 Beers)" for 15 cents. View full size.

 

Everything old is new again

I grew up in St. Paul.

We had a street car system. Certain businessmen in the cities enriched themselves with the switch to buses from street cars. Now what are we building in the Twin Cities? Light rail. They didn't tear the trolley tracks up. They just paved over them. In building the light rail they are finding a few artifacts in the digs.

We had an on-campus, open air football stadium at the university. It was a war memorial. Domes became fashionable so they tore it down and built the dome. Now even though the dome has worked for many years what do they build? An open air, on-campus football stadium.

Plenteously the Waters Generated

Regarding public transportation and soot-belching, coal-fired powerhouse:

The Twin City Rapid Transit Company ran most of the system around 1908 with electricity generated using the waters of the mighty Mississippi. It seems that the operation's efficient and well-managed affairs were in marked contrast to the organized theft that characterized so many traction systems elsewhere - particularly those looted by the Whitney syndicate in the East.

I remember Hamms

I remember Hamm's well. When I was a kid, the Baltimore Orioles were sponsored by a popular local brewery named Gunther's ("Gee, what a wonderful beer"); it had its name on the centerfield scoreboard at Memorial Stadium.

About 1959, Gunther's was bought out by Hamm's. It replaced Gunther on the scoreboard, and instead of keeping the old recipe available, Gunther was junked and replaced by Hamm's.

Hamm's didn't stay in Baltimore for long. I think they sold out to Schaefer's, which didn't last much longer than Hamm's.

Optical delusion

The horse-drawn wagon facing us on the left: the roundish thing looks like either an umbrella or a phonograph horn, depending on whether it's concave or convex. I'm leaning toward the concave, and speculating that it's a type of megaphone used by the driver to make himself heard over the urban racket. If so, I wonder if it was a sideline of the Edison Phonograph emporium across the street.

What a Show!

Sure would like to see them "Dancing Pianos" in the Hiawatha Temple!

Artificial Eyes

I wonder if they installed the fake eyeballs in house or if you had to go to a separate location for that?

Businessman's Lunch - updated

Hasn't this tradition been replaced by the "3 martini lunch"?

Honk

There seems to be a large phonograph horn sticking out of that wagon. I wonder if it has to do with the phonograph Store across the street next to The Cable Company. (How many channels did you get with their basic package?)

[Just for the record (so to speak), the Cable Company is a showroom for Cable pianos. - Dave]

No Street Lights?

There are poles for the trolley wires, but I don't see a street light. Perhaps the good folk of St. Paul stayed home in the evenings?

[Depending on their eyesight. - Dave]

I remember the beer refreshing

They had that same jingle on TV in Illinois in the '70s. With trippy cartoon bears, as I recall.

What's on Tonight

I wonder what was on tv back then, I see the very generically named "Cable Company" on a building on the right.

[It's a piano showroom. - Dave]

Yayyy! I finally earned my Shorpian photo recognition badge!

I recognized all of the signs that are essential to a fully functional business district during the early 1900's before I read the comments or checked out the title commentary.

I'll be in the Hotel Exchange drinking alternating mugs of Hamm;s and Blatz beer to help take away the pain of my recent dentist visit. I'm the guy wearing my new eyeglasses and smoking a "Segar." Don't look down because my pants are being pressed as I wait for Dave to present me with my photo recognition badge.

Public transportation

>> Abundantly equipped with the standbys that Shorpians will recognize as essential to a smoothly functioning business district

And, I would add, streetcars! Interesting how so many of these old photos of city streets show the presence of streetcars. Typically quieter and much less contributing to air pollution than today's unimaginative buses - and most likely with much more efficient service to the masses. More and more cities are now realizing the superiority of streetcars over buses, and are building today's versions which we call "light rail."

[The electricity for these streetcars came from a soot-belching, coal-fired powerhouse. - Dave]

Idlers and ghost horses

Accounted for.

Hamms Beer

Does anyone here remember the Hamms beer Jingle? I am just guessing but it was probably mid to late 40's when Hamms was advertising on the radio.

From the land of sky blue water
Comes the beer refreshing
Hamms, the beer refreshing.

Mealey Goods

Why would any one want to buy Mealey dry goods? And the storefront labeled "The Cable Company" made me chuckle.

The two beers were most likely Hamm's or Blatz.

No traffic lights as yet but there is a sign hanging up high that cautions "cars stop before crossing street."

["Cars" meaning streetcars. - Dave]

Minnesota staple.

I see those two staples of Minnesota life readily available, Blatz and Hamm's. I remember visiting Minnesota when I was in the military and seeing those two brews advertised at every tavern and roadhouse.

Ah, the businessman's lunch!

There are several spots in sight to get your lunch. Do you prefer Hamm's or Schmidt's, the local St. Paul based brews? (The Schimidt sign is down the block on the right) Or perhaps Blatz? The beer that made Milwaukee famous. They have their own storefront, wow!

Pants Pressed While You Wait

However, there will be an extra charge if you want to take them off first.

Urban Renewal Prevails

I lived in St. Paul for 30 years. This part of the downtown underwent extensive urban renewal and looks nothing like this any longer. The Hotel Clarendon sat on the NE corner of Wabasha and Sixth. Not even the churches survived. Pretty bland landscape now. Nothing like the community life that once abounded here.


View Larger Map

Oy Vey

On the extreme right, the worn out old horse in front of the carriage parked at the curb near Dr. Merrill, dentist, personifies exactly how I feel today. I'm experiencing great empathy with that tired, weary nag, we understand each other.

 
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