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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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The Hat That Talks: 1908

The Hat That Talks: 1908

Grand Rapids, Michigan, circa 1908. "Monroe Street." Your headquarters for chatty chapeaux. 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Umbrella (not) man

re: Dennis M's comment: if you look at the shadows, you'll see that the guy bending over is several feet away from the chair, so I don't think the two are necessarily associated. I'd say it's more likely he's related to the overflowing trash can and broom at the curb - possibly collecting some detritus on the street. I'm going with your speculation that the umbrella/chair has something to do with a streetcar functionary.

[Perhaps the fellow over by the streetcar. Umbrella bears the name of Something Milling Co. - Dave]

Talking hats serve an important purpose

When you place one on your head, it tells you which branch of Hogwarts you are a member of: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin.

1908 Dentistry

By the time you walk up 5 flights of stairs you will have forgotten about your toothache.


The photographer is looking basically southeast. The buildings on the right (south) of Monroe are mostly all gone; now Rosa Parks Circle is there, a downtown gathering spot for open-air concerts and ice skating in season.

View Larger Map


As I scrolled across the enlarged version of this photo, I noticed the hat on the woman in white on the street corner. Did her hat have two tiny people on top of it? That would explain the talking hat part. No, it was people in the background, giving that illusion. As I scrolled down, I noticed the horse turds in the street and the fact that the woman was holding something that gives the illusion she is about to be hit by a flying horse turd (at least I HOPE it's an illusion).

There she is in her lovely white dress, just waiting to cross the street, and 103 years later people are seeing tiny talking people on her head and large turd flying at her. It makes me wonder what people might notice about my own candid photos 100 years from now.


OK, can anyone elaborate on "The Hat That Talks"? And the guy with the chair under the umbrella in the middle of the street -- a streetcar dispatcher?

The lady in white

The city looks like a grimy place, but somehow the lady in the white -- or at least light coloured -- dress on the street corner manages to keep her apparel squeaky clean.

Nat'l City still nearby

Interesting to see the National City branch at Pearl Street and Monroe. A modern branch is here in Grand Rapids just rear-right of the viewer. Monroe Avenue has changed over the years, from a road to a pedestrian mall, back to a road. Still a good variety of historic structures along its path, though the corner buildings and distant Herpolsheimers building are gone.

Eliminates the middleman

No need for a person to "talk through his hat." Now the hat can do the talking for him.

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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