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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

The Music Man: 1940

The Music Man: 1940

December 1940. Radford, Virginia. "Mrs. Jones's boardinghouse. Six men live in this room. Three beds, pay 8 to 10 dollars a week rent. Most have families they left behind in Bluefield, West Virginia; Bristol, Tennessee; or High Point, North Carolina. They are carpenters, carpenters' assistants, riggers and laborers. They make 60 cents to $1.25 per hour." Photo by John Vachon. View full size.

 

His mother taught him well

That guy lying on the bed. Get off the bed with your shoes on! He put his feet on his jacket, not getting his covers dirty.

I've stayed in towns in Iowa at boarding houses and rooming houses in the early 1970s.

Real people

I love the humanity of this picture - the men are slightly self-conscious, but obviously have made the photographer welcome - I wonder if any of their families knew of this moment in their otherwise forgotten lives.

Six Guys Three Beds

Imagine the reality TV show this would make today.

Clark Gable called

He'd like his ears back.

So much for cheap rent

A glimpse inside the often-written-about but seldom-seen boardinghouse.

Ten dollars a week to share a bed with another dude, and a room with four more? That's $153.75 in 2010 dollars, or $667 monthly. I think I could still rent a one-bedroom apartment for that in Austin, although just barely. Sure, I'd have to pay my own utilities, but I'd have privacy and much greater comfort.

And why the $8 to $10 range? Sharing a bed with a stranger should be a lowball commodity, I think!

[Boardinghouse rent includes not just the room but also, as the name implies, board. So a comparison would need to include food. - Dave]

You know, I thought of that after I posted it. And just now, I realized I am grateful to John Vachon for using off-camera flash. It further emphasizes the small dimensions of the room!

[He used floodlights. - Dave]

 
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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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