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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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Coat Check: 1909

Coat Check: 1909

New York municipal lodging house circa 1909. "Fumigating clothing." From the New York Times: "There is a basement and subbasement, the latter containing the boiler and batteries for lighting and heating. The basement contains the shower baths for men and the steam and formaldehyde cleansers, the laundry, and the vacuum sweeping apparatus. ... All applicants for accommodations will be forced to undress before going to their rooms, which they will enter after they have taken a bath and their clothes have been thoroughly fumigated. The arrangements for the latter are most novel. The clothes are placed in small crates or boxes, which are then wheeled into large steam and formaldehyde retorts. When they are finally taken from their place before the men and women to which they belong are ready to leave the house in the morning, they are entirely cleaned." 8x10 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

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Amazing setup. I think the fumigation was to kill the lice in their clothes. Typhus was a serious problem back then, as well as other louse borne diseases.

Lodging House

So, reading the NY Times article carefully, you would: petition to spend the night, wash up vigorously, then leave your clothing in the basement while you join the other exclusive guests. In the morning, men and women exit the boarding house looking crisp and dapper. Sounds like a pretty wild place...
Seriously, what DID they wear?

[A nice Department of Public Charities nightshirt. - Dave]

Scary scenario

I don't think you could present anyone with a plan like that today.

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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