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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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High Stakes: 1909

High Stakes: 1909

"Living on a Skyscraper." Boys playing marbles on the roof of a New York apartment building circa 1909. View full size. George Grantham Bain Collection.

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I played a lot of marbles in different locales because we moved around when I was a kid. And each place had its own particular way to play marbles, I can assure you. Your version of a ring drawn in the dirt that a shooter would line up next to was pretty common. These guys in the photo seem to have a peculiar long-range thing going on. Or maybe the kid was just showing off. Fun to speculate about a lot of these photos.

Up on the Roof

This was a very well to do group of boys. Even with the clothesline this is not a tenement roof, but a high end building. In the Park and 5th Avenue buildings, the maids occupied the top floors and lived in dormitory type rooms. The wash could be theirs or their employers.

Dumb Question

Being more of a girl-type human, forgive the question but did shooters really get that far away in marbles? I always thought they shot from just outside the circle. These boys look as if they really know how to shoot.

Re: not really a skyscraper

A skyscraper is a tall building. Back then anything over maybe 10 stories was considered tall. The term got its start in the 1870s and was routinely applied to any building of a dozen stories or more. Which is why the photographer used "skyscraper" to caption this picture.

not really a skyscraper.

Back in those days there were no residential 'skyscrapers'. Interesting picture, though. My kids don't get that dressed up for anything, much less hanging out with friends playing games.

Reminds me of...

once upon a time in america.

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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