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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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Tot Box: 1936

Tot Box: 1936

September 1938. "WPA (Works Progress Administration) worker's children with toys in their play yard. South Charleston, West Virginia." Last seen here. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Kids and Boxes

I've always maintained that parents and grandparents waste money by buying presents for their kids up to the age of about 3.

Without fail, when I see one of those rugrats open presents, they're always more fascinated with the wrapping and the wonderful box. The heck with the present!

Car ID

Dodge mid 20's

The only nation is...

...the imagiNATION (thanks to the movie Miracle on 34th Street).

When I was a child I remember times like this when a box or any other object could be made magical with a good dose of the right imagination.

When my son was younger, we made a winter sled from a refrigerator box, some duct tape, and a piece of plastic. It went faster, further, and more fearsome than the other 'store bought' winter sleds.

Healthy Minds and Healthy Bodies

Imagination is the best toy for a child. As with the other people the best things I remember playing with in my childhood were boxes and scraps of wood and the other odds and ends from my fathers construction business. Yes I got cuts and scraps and splinters and a bent nail through the palm of my hand. But it was all good life lessons as far as I am concerned. You learned how to cooperate with other kids, you learned not to laugh at others pain because sooner or later you would get hurt yourself, and you learned how to talk together and dream together, and solve life's problems all within a cardboard appliance box.

Besides studies have shown time and again that children who are allowed to play like this grow up more creative thinkers and better problem solvers, having less problems with allergies, and a stronger immune system over the children that stay in doors in their "99.9%" disinfected homes.

Inside the Box

There's something magical about a box to a kid. Even my digital grandchildren like to make forts in large boxes. So did my kids. So did I. These two look happy and unaware of their poverty.

Kids + boxes, even today

I was out driving in town the other day and noticed a big appliance box in the front yard of a nice home. I thought what the heck is that box doing in their front yard?

Lo and behold, two kids were playing inside, using it as a "fort" complete with windows cut into the side.

I did the same thing 40 years ago. Nice to see some kids are not all glued to a Nintendo and know what the outdoors is.

Some of the greatest toys ever

Such as, but not limited to:
- discarded cardboard boxes (indoors)
- discarded wooden boxes (outdoors)
- sticks
- boards
- leftover hay and straw
- mud

Move over, He-Man, Turtles, and all those other plastic contraptions, you haven't got a chance compared to that!


This brings back so many memories but I keep wondering about the newspaper. I'm starting to think it may have been provided by the photographer as a reflector, if so, it's brilliant!


"Toys" may seem a stretch. But even growing up 40+ years after this in the era of heavily marketed cartoon action figures, I still remember I used to have an old key on a long piece of leather lacing, which at times I would pretend was either a pet snake or a bullwhip.

I grew up poor

Looking at this picture with the "toys" these kids are playing with just made me realize I grew up poor. Good thing I didn't know it at the time. This could have been our yard growing up. I distinctly remember having a fort like this one.

Don't tie my fun down!

This reminds me of the moon shot years. In my youth, there was no toy better that an appliance box that was modified with a steak knife and crayons to be the lunar lander. Oh how analog.

Now That's Bliss

A home of your own, and someone to share the fun with!

It's better than bad, it's good!

That could have been me.

I am probably the same age as that kid. I remember those days when many of our playthings were contrived from stuff laying around.

I don't see "toys"

It looks to me like what these kids are playing with are some sort of industrial spools, short logs, an old crockery custard cup, sticks, twigs, a couple of lids from something and a newspaper. Try getting away with telling today's kids that these are their toys.

OSHA Would Disapprove

But this is the sort of play environment in which I and many others still drawing breath grew up. No right thinking person would advocate the deliberate marketing of obviously hazardous toys (remember lawn darts?), but there is something to be said for the intellectual benefits of children adapting ambient objects to their own imaginative purposes. I vividly remember the reveries to which I would succumb as a bored kid, when almost any object in sight could inspire welcome relief from the agonies of sitting there while my mother tried on shoes.

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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