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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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Short Subjects: 1938

Short Subjects: 1938

September 1938. " 'It's a dirty gyp,' say the mine workers' sons in the penny arcade at outdoor carnival. Granville, West Virginia." Stepstools helpfully provided for the shorter cineastes. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. View full size.

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We expected to finally see the censored

In 1957 at Bertrand Island Lake Hopatcong NJ we kids would drop our pennies in and see "The electric chair at Sing Sing" a prisoner being executed. and a Victorian era Fan stuff. The flip card viewer was a real attraction.

Truth in advertising

Playland-Not-At-the-Beach in El Cerrito has a few of these old peep shows. One, called "How to Clean Up at the Races," is a tiny diorama of plastic horses, a shovel and manure. Another, "Fan Dancer," is exactly that - a shaking paper fan with doll legs. You got exactly what was advertised with these things, so don't call them "a dirty gyp," kid.

I Miss Those Things

Up until about 5 years ago, they still had a few of those peep shows at the Minnesota State Fair Penny Arcade, tucked away amongst the flashy, noisy video games. Some of them didn't work, but one or two always did, and they were still a penny. I found them to be charming and always made it a point to watch one each time I went to the fair. When they moved or removed the Penny Arcade, the peep shows went away too. I tracked down and contacted the guy who owned them, hoping to buy and restore them, but he wanted much more than I could afford. I hope they've been restored and are still entertaining people somewhere.

Golly gosh gee whiz

This just can't be true, the youth of yesteryear were all virtuous and wholesome and never thought of, or even knew about Sex.

Double Feature

My favorite filmgoers are the two guys both watching the "Strip Poker" show, trying to get a double-view for the price of a penny.

Peep Shows at Rocky Point

They still had a few of these at Rocky Point in RI when I was a kid. I remember viewing one called "What Girls Do When Alone"; instead of the hoped-for steamy Sapphic interlude, the ancient, worn images showed two flappers dancing. That was it.

I guess you do get what you pay for at the Penny Arcade.

"Without expectation there can be no disappointment"

The enticing photos and titles on the signs invariably promised more than the 1¢ show delivered. In reality, the flip cards seldom showed more than an attractive girl fully covered by a diaphanous cloak that she almost removes by the last card. You are always left with the impression that if there were just a few more cards, you would have received your money's worth.


I remember seeing those at the arcades in Ocean City, MD in the 1960's. Only by that time it cost 2 cents. There was never anything really obscene. It was usually some sort of mildly naughty gag shot.

After the photo was taken

I bet these kids were worried about their parents seeing them watching the peep show!

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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