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About the Photos

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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Hot Sheets: 1938

Hot Sheets: 1938

From September 1938, a reminder of the days when doing laundry meant hauling water from a well or spigot, then boiling it in a caldron over a fire: "Old and sick, mine foreman's wife does washing in front yard. South Charleston, W.Va." Photo by Marion Post Wolcott for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


Through the Wringer

Even I remember, although the water came from a tap, that in the early fifties, living in a comfortable home with central heating, the maid did the wash in a washtub, using washboard and hand wringer. As a small boy I protested to my parents that they could not let this happen. And soon a washing machine came in the house.

Happy Birthplace

I was born in South Charleston three years after this picture was taken. It is hard to believe there was an actual hospital there.

Could be my grandma's place!

Grandpa was a farmer, not a miner, but their backyard looked very much like this, including the "Witches Cauldron" where clothes were boiled on washday. Then the wringer washer showed up when i was maybe 8 or 10 and things changed...

They had a 1950 ickup truck in green, and a 1957 Chevy sedan in silver, no radio and without self-canceling turn signals. No frills neded for gramma and grampa!

What a kid really wants

A packing crate. Even today a cardboard refrigerator box will become a magic carpet for a kid.

Not quite right

"think it needs a pinch of Salt"

Foreman's wife

Imagine what life was like for an ordinary miner's wife.

Mine foreman's wife

She is described in the caption as old and sick. Having to do such a strenuous, miserable chore weekly would make anyone old and sick before their time. A coal miner's clothes and almost everything he touches, often including his hair and skin, become indelibly stained with coal residue, very difficult to clean. She probably also made her own lye soap in a similar cauldron over a fire. I almost missed seeing the two kids playing in a makeshift clubhouse under the tree in the background. At least that lends a small ray of cheerfulness into this family's difficult life of mostly drudgery.

Jack In The Box

Seems the foreman's son loved playing in boxes as much as I did as a child. This yard is a playground full of treasures for a boy and his imagination.

Body Parts

I sure would like to have that Ford door! Thats the reason we often find the cars and trucks with no doors. They took them off!

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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