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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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Sea of Faces: 1908

Sea of Faces: 1908

September 24, 1908. West Allis, Wisconsin. "Taft crowd at Allis-Chalmers works." Audience for William Taft, speaking from the platform of his train at the Allis- Chalmers yards. View full size. 5x7 glass negative, G.G. Bain Collection.


Audible Oratory

In the era before microphones, people instinctively spoke much louder by habit when addressing large groups--the same with singers. Also in the early days of recording, singers even on popular records had a distinct operatic quality of projecting their voices and speaking very precisely.


Memories of my old home town. The Allis Chalmers industrial complex was huge. It seems that very few internal photos exist. West Allis was originally named Greenfield. An intentional misprint of a town meeting start time enabled the industry advocates to quickly rename the town to West Allis, after Edward P. Allis. (And the Allis Chalmers west plant.) Much heated outrage was the result as more meeting goers arrived too late to object (as planned). The area around the plant became known to the locals as Dogpatch. Around the time of this photo, a city lot nearby on which to build a home was $250 or so.


I get claustrophobic looking at this picture - packed in like a can of sardines!

Strong lungs

Yeah, I've always wondered how orators did it before amplification.

I recall seeing a movie about an early Olympics and the stadium announcer worked from a platform that had three huge megaphones emanating from the point where his mouth was. But hard to imagine a presidential candidate using such a thing.

Audiences must have been very quiet then.

Could anyone hear him?

I always wonder in scenes like this whether many people in the large audience could actually hear the speaker (or see him very well). I suppose Taft could have been using some sort of megaphone or bullhorn? But even so. ... And what about before electricity? Maybe those speakers could "project" in an enclosed space, but it would have been hard to be heard outdoors, I'd think.


Visbily is one of the many relatives of Ty Po. Ty Po is frequently around when people are in a rush to write and don't read what they writ.

[I think I see Ty! Over to the left, in back. - Dave]

Visbily absent

A huge crowd and there appears to be one, possibly two women (there's a hat behind one of the men to the left of one obvious women that doesn't exactly look like something a man would wear) and probably as many African-American men. A bit of a reminder of how far we've come in a hundred years.

[Good observation. But who's Visbily? And why didn't he show up? - Dave]

Not President Taft yet

Mr Taft was campaigning for President that fall, but was not "President Taft" yet.

[Excellent point. Thanks! - Dave]

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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