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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 • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

Measurements: 1937

Measurements: 1937

July 23, 1937. "To enable fathers and mothers to order clothes with the confidence that a size 8 or 10 is all it's supposed to be in length and breadth, the Bureau of Economics, U.S. Department of Agriculture, is leading a project in which colleges and universities will cooperate to discover the clothing dimensions needed by today's children. Special attention is being paid to racial characteristics, as the experts believe that race and neighborhood have something to do with a youngster's size. Dr. Eleanor Hunt, associate anthropometrist, Bureau of Home Economics, is shown training one of the first classes on scientific measurement of the human body." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

This is truly

one of the strangest pictures I've ever seen, on this site or anywhere.

Senseless observation

There is nothing wrong with this situation. I once measured a young woman with a tire pressure gauge and a meat thermometer. Not to mention a decibel meter after Mexican food.

Grandpa trousers

He wore his undies pulled up tight all the way to his belly button, that explains why so many men his age now wear their pants pulled up to their armpits!

Figure 8

So, he's an 8, right? Oh, I get it -- that's why it says "8" on the back of his hand.

I'm more concerned

about the two guys on the left without writing materials and their arms crossed. Those guys are the pervs.

BTW, there is no way in heck that you could have gotten me to stand there like that.

Strange...

Is anyone concerned about the guy on the far right with the creepy smile on his face?

GLTP

She is demonstrating the measurement of width at the level of greatest lateral trochanteric projection.

If it weren't for pioneers like this our kids' pants would not fit so well today.

Dr. Hunt

... you've got cold hands.

Definitely a government operation

It takes eleven people to measure the dimensions of one boy?

Mom was right

about always wearing clean underwear, just in case of moments like this.

Tape Measure v. Micrometer

My boyfriend says he would rather this particular examination require a tape measure than a micrometer.

You boys are all very silly. This is nothing to joke about. It is science and all for the betterment of mankind.

Although isn't her rather unnecessary squinting going to psychologically damage this poor young man? I do hope he was paying this no attention.

The perfect moment

Of all the measurements Dr. Hunt took that day, why did the photographer choose this one as his subject? Makes ya wonder...

Times have changed

Nowadays you'd have to buy her a drink first.

Oh, Dang....

there's a stain on my sock, and what's all that alcohol for!...Are they going to operate? Yikes!!

Stranger than fiction

You can't make a picture like this up.

Years of therapy...

What a strange picture -- the boy has such a look of miserable endurance. Dr. Hunt is lucky she didn't get kicked in the teeth. The seated woman second from left is the only one looking at the boy with any compassion at all, and even that is ambiguous. Poor kid.

Not with a ten-foot pole

Even commenting on this is likely to get you investigated.

Warm up your Photoshop

This cries out to be Farked.

Caption contest?

Oh Dave, there HAS to be a caption contest in THIS image? No?

Aw, gee... do I have to, Ma?

You've got to believe this kid is hoping the fellas don't find out about this. The gent all the way at the end in the white shirt is perhaps thinking the same thing on the kid's behalf. Love all the clashing patterns on the ladies' dresses.

OMG

That's certainly the first question I put to the men in my life: "Is your 8 or 10 all it's supposed to be in length and breadth?"

Doc, I swear I can't stop

Doc, I swear I can't stop having this nightmare: I'm in a room full of fully dressed people, and I'm standing there in my underwear, and an old biddy with a caliper is carefully measuring, you know, THERE. It's so real, and it's awful. What could it possibly mean??

Fark Off

I submit this photograph as the greatest potential Shorpy Farker of all time.

With that in mind, let the pros have at it. Restrained commentary is best for this particular shot. Everyone, please back away from your keyboards...

Miss Eleanor

seems to be getting awfully close to Mr. Johnson!

Wry smiles

Two of the students, the woman, second to left, and the farthest over guy on the right have both cracked what seem probably inadvertent half smiles, the sort of wry grin you get when you are either standing a bit back from the action and actually observing it, or simply the face of someone who is trying to find humor in what is a bit embarrassing.

The poor kid, enduring this display of himself, being measured no less, at an age when this is probably about to become an issue, looks really mortified and fed up both at once. Of course this was depression era. Perhaps his parents were being given a little stipend for this strange bit of child labor? I hope he was rewarded, because he sure was made a show! He's probably about 72 by now. Let's hope he got over it!

[72? Check your math. - Dave]

Say What?

I don't even know where to begin commenting on this photo. But oh that poor kid.

All science aside - - - -

just what the heck IS she measuring, and why???

Somewhere in America

There's somebody saying, "Oh my God, that's Great-Grandpa in his undies!"

Does he measure up ?

I think the guy on the right and I are thinking the same thing.

Modern Evolution

Just yesterday I was reading some fascinating material in the March 2009 issue of Discover Magazine wherein evolutionary developmental biologists believe that an extraordinary number of genetic changes over the past 10,000 years has led to significantly different physical characteristics between different ethnic groups. Thus, the above experts may have been ahead of their time.

Dave

I think a caption contest here would be a bad idea.

Who stole my nightmare

The scary array of measuring tools, the smirking note-takers, the Dr. Seuss socks -- this is the recurring dream I started having when I was 12!

Measuring Up

Wow - this is such a striking picture I have a number of reactions -- first, that poor kid probably grew up to be a life model for an art class. He has that "I'm not here" look down very well. The dude smirking on the far right probably never grew up. The calipers and tools of measurement make this all look very scientific, but their stated objective of paying attention to race makes me cringe, because it's 1937, and "paying special attention to racial characteristics" doesn't usually mean something good or kindly intended.

Oh Jeez!

So much to be said here...

Could be worse

It's certainly an improvement over the days when Sears Roebuck promised a perfect fit if you told them your child's age and "whether large or small of age".

15 minutes of fame...

followed by 25 years of therapy.

She's measuring what now?!

I can hardly comment, I'm snickering too hard!

Nice looking kid -- looks a bit like my dad when he was a kid -- though he would not have held still for that.

 
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