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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Marja, Akbar, Stella May: 1938

Marja, Akbar, Stella May: 1938

November 1938. "Fortune teller's cubicle, state fair. Donaldsonville, Louisiana." 35mm negative by Russell Lee, Farm Security Administration. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Then & Now Cost

Adjusted for inflation, 10 cents in 1938 would be equivalent to $1.65 in 2012. There’s a joint in my Wisconsin burg currently offering psychic readings for $10 — quite an increase compared to the 1938 charge for a similar service, even considering inflation.

The Talker Has a Speaker

A snappy suitcase-style PA speaker hanging on the left side of the booth, with tweed racing stripes.

Palm Joint

As an ex-carny -- the ticket booth has raised floor piece which the talker, not barker, stands on, normally there is no seat. The term "barker" was coined by a novelist in the 1930's. Carnival folk never used the word barker, the word is talker. Carnival concessions were referred to as "joints." Fortune telling concessions were called "palm joints" and usually not part of the traveling carnival but at fairs, came on as independents.

Hands on

I like how the patron is staring at her hand wondering what her future may hold.
"I see a thousand eyes seeing you as you are right now"

Temple? Huh!

Oversells it a bit, you think?


Well, they ARE registered, so it MUST be on the level, right? Only an idiot would have their palms, psyches, crystals etc., read by anyone who was UNregistered.

My question is, on which registries do they appear? I'm thinking police blotters throughout the US and Canada.


From what I can see of the barker's "build", it appears that he may be a little person - in those days called a midget. He is standing on a shelf, I guess.

And a Magician, Too!

The barker appears to be standing, yet he has NO FEET!

Stella May!

What a hoot!

Scientific palmistry.

Were those the days?

Free Parking

Looks like Marja flew in on her broom and parked it in her cubicle.

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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