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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • ABOUT PARIS, 1895

Clothesline Canyon: 1900

Clothesline Canyon: 1900

"New York tenement yard c. 1900-10." A washday wonderland in this uncropped version of yesterday's post. Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative. View full size.

 

Castle

Can anyone identify the castle-like building in the distance in the middle of photo near the two smokestacks?

A tradition

I lived in a house without a dryer for 14 years. I loved hanging the clothes on the line, except of course during the winter.

It always made me feel like I was carrying on a tradition. My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother did likewise.

All That Underwear...

Nothing found that looks like Victoria's Secret!

Clotheslines

To the person looking for a news clothesline: Google rotary clothesline or Hill's Hoist. I grew up with a rotary and prefer the T-bar type myself -- drying is more even.

Coping with laundry must've been difficult then for women who worked outside the home and couldn't afford a laundry service or servant. We may roll our eyes at the old Christmas displays promoting a washing machine as the perfect gift for the "little woman" but I bet women who grew up doing laundry by hand would have been thrilled to receive one.

Fire escapes

Reminds me of hot summer afternoons at my grandparents house, sitting on the fire escape with my legs dangling through the bars, hoping for a cool breeze.

Drying with fresh air and sunshine!

I live across town from Google headquarters in what is as high-tech an area as you can find, but I still prefer to hang the clothes on a line. I have a half-century old metal folding unit which has begun to sag a bit, although it rarely is folded up or moved. For those who don't know, it's like an X stuck perpendicular to the top of its support pole when erected, with straight bars on two opposite sides (attached to the X ends) and the lines running between those bars. Anyone know if these are still being made?

Airing the family's clean laundry

I grew up hanging clothes out on the line on washing day--though our clothesline was in a backyard and could only be viewed by a limited number of neighbors. We had a set order to our loads--we always did the towels and linens first so that when they were hanging on the line they blocked the sight of the second load--underwear. This order is so ingrained in me that I still do my laundry towels and sheets first, then underwear, then the rest of the clothes--even though I haven't had a clothesline in years.

Spidermen?

I'd like to see that guys that crawled up the poles to hang the lines - now THAT'S talent!

Hitch's inspiration?

This reminds me so much of the set of "Rear Window." Without the laundry, of course. Really cool photo.

[Indeed. In fact I think I see Thelma Ritter ironing. - Dave]

Clotheslines

I haven't seen clothes hanging on a clothesline in years.
Even here in Florida with plenty of sunshine people use electric dryers.

Soap operas

In the 1930s and 40s daytime radio was soap operas. If you listen to those programs today you will hear commercials touting the benefits of each and every brand of soap. White, white, white was the goal, and disgrace to any poor housewife who had gray laundry on washday.

Disgracing the family

In the small town where I was raised, washday was Monday and you can be sure that everybody definitely DID look at everybody else's laundry when it was hung out on the line. My mother really worked hard to get the whitest whites and the brightest brights and some residents would actually criticize the ladies who hung out "tattletale gray" whites and dull colors. If a new red dress was accidentally washed with whites, of course all the whites turned pink. And blue denim work clothes ran into and ruined other colors. Stains that were not scrubbed out meant the homemaker did not take the time to clean them properly. As long as my mom lived, she preferred clotheslines, never owned a dryer, and even on frigid winter days, her gnarled, knotty hands still hung clothes on the line and often brought them inside frozen solid so they would stand up by themselves. I won't mention any names (Mrs. Landowsky) regarding who was considered slovenly because her laundry was always stained and grayish. Of course nobody took into consideration that she had seven kids and probably could not afford bleach. Talk about "airing your dirty laundry in public," it was once a fact of life. And I still get nostalgic over clothespin bags, which were my only toys when I visited my grandmother.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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