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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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Scared of School: 1908

Scared of School: 1908

September 1908. Grafton, West Virginia. "Tipple Boy and Drivers. Maryland Coal Co. mine near Sand Lick. Boy with mule was afraid at first to be in the picture; another boy said he feared we might make him go to school." View full size. Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine.



Those are oil lamps on their hats. Shaped like a little watering can, they held whale oil with a wick that went down the spout.

Mine Headlamps

Oops, I just looked at the other photo of open-flame headlamps (which in fact I'd never seen before). Were the carbide (enclosed) variety considered "safety devices"?

Great site full of the America I grew up in. Thanks...

Carbide lamps..

Those are, in fact, carbide lamps, which worked by dripping water (regulated by a valve) onto rocks of calcium carbide in the body of the lamp. The amount of water determined the amount of gas produced, and therefore the brightness of the flame.

I was born in coal mining country in the 40's, and later came to discover through a friend how the flammable gas produced by calcium carbide could be used to power deafeningly loud paint-can cannons.

Also, BTW, most of us would rather have gone to work than school, I think...

My Sweetheart's the Mule

My grandfather, who started working in a coal mine about a decade after this photo was taken, used to sing this ditty to me:

My sweetheart's the mule in the mines
I drive her without reins or lines
On the bumper I sit
And I chew and I spit
All over my sweetheart's behind.

Carbide Lights

I think the name of the lamps on the boys heads were carbide lights. My dad has a couple of the ones my grandfather wore.


I would love to know what is on the boys' hats.

[Headlamps like these. - Dave]

Coal Camp

Yeah, I'm sure many of the jobs back then were horrible, but I can't imagine any kid not wanting to work with horses (or mules)--- and ditch school at that. That's not far off from what many of the well-to-do pay good money for their kids to do at expensive summer camps, after all!

Shocked. Shocked!

I'm shocked! One of them is smiling -- I'm surprised Hine didn't destroy the negative and demand another be taken with all-scowling faces.

How could it be?

How could school be any worse than this? I suspect that they didn't have a choice to go to school as their families probably needed the money.

["Worse than this" -- it says something about life today when we can't wrap our minds around the possibility that these boys might actually have liked working. - 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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