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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Spray Beer: 1908

Spray Beer: 1908

Niagara Falls, New York, circa 1908. "Imperial Hotel." Where the thirsty traveler could partake of the evocatively named Spray Beer. Around the corner was a Temperance House, whose amenities might have included a milk bar. At left, a political banner advertises the Democratic presidential ticket of William Jennings Bryan and John Kern. 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Spray Beer

Something you do when you have a mouthful of your favorite brew and someone tells a really funny joke.


The brickwork on the Imperial Hotel is fantastic. It's incredible the workmanship that was put into those old buildings. It's too bad that so many of them are gone now. I doubt that kind of work could be duplicated today.

re: Interesting mailbox

That's a design I don't recall seeing before. The more familiar one, still in use today, can be seen as early as 1906 in a photo from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum:

I walk a beat

Does anyone see the local cop on the corner? He was sure to know everyone on his patrol!

Said the man with the pipe

"Hurry up and take the picture, Sonny! I ain't got all day you know."


Does anyone know which streets we see in this picture?

[Falls and Second. - Dave]

Tilty Shifty

Looks to me like the photographer didn't pull off the tilt-shift quite right.

That interesting mailbox

I had no idea that our current round top US Mail box was only a 20th century creation. Would love to see more shots of this earlier incarnation, and get an idea of when these were actually made. When did the ones we now know begin?

House (er, hotel) of cards

The perspective of this photo makes me dizzy. It looks like the walls are about to fall outward.

The DSLR equivalent

Could you replicate this photo with a modern DSLR? You would need a stack of ND filters in order to drag the shutter enough to blur the walkers in what looks to be bright sun. They would have to be very expensive ND filters to get that tack sharp resolution.

I'm not even sure there is a lens available for a 35mm camera that would give you that wide of an angle without an extreme fisheye effect. The photographer is standing across the street from a 6 story building, and not only get the entire building in the shot but we can see halfway down the block as well. Amazing!

[Size-wise, you're comparing apples to olives. The digital analogue to images made with an 8x10 view camera would be taken with a medium- or large-format camera (Hasselblad, Phase One, Better Light) with a digital back. We have one example here. - Dave]

Hotel Vertigo

The upper facade of the hotel seems to be angling outward in a rather unsettling manner. But as the top of the telegraph pole on the right appears to have the same problem, I trust the hotel is in fact quite normal and the issue instead has to do with the photographer's perspective.

[The pole does have a pronounced curve, but the hotel is exactly vertical. The tilt-shift lenses used in these view cameras do create a distinctive exaggerated geometry, however. - Dave]

That Refreshing Spray

Spray Beer was apparently (and appropriately) a Niagara region institution!

"Do you work here?"

Having worked with the public and had people ask me "Do you work here?" while I am standing behind the cash, wearing a tacky polyester uniform with a large name-tag with the name of the store, I know that with multiple signs stating "Hotel Imperial" in every nook and cranny, people would STILL ask "Is this the Hotel Imperial?"

My favourite "Do you work here?" story: I was standing with a number of other employees, all of us wearing our bright red and white polyester uniform pant-suits, with our company name tags, all holding price-guns and a woman came up and asked "Do you work here?"

Without missing a beat I said to her "No. Sorry. We are a club which goes from store to store repricing merchandise. This is our club outfit."

The woman looked at us with confusion and said "Ummm... Oh... Sorry..." and wandered off.


Another primo example of extraordinary masonry. Beauty is in the details----to paraphrase another artist.

Are you sure this is the Hotel Imperial?

I see the name "Hotel Imperial" seven times, eight if you count the unseen side of the entryway on the right side of the building.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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