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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 • VOLUNTEER FOR VICTORY

Washday: 1900

Washday: 1900

New York circa 1900. "Yard of tenement at Park Avenue and 107th Street." 11 x 14 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

From Monday On

From Monday on, my cares are over
From Monday on, I'll be in clover
We picked on Monday because it's washday
And we'll wash our blues away
From Monday on, the skies will look bright
Don't tell me different, I know I'm right
I'm gonna start shouting Hey Hey
When he says Love Honor and Obey
I'll be happy, from Monday on.

A catchy late '20s Paul Whiteman tune with Bing and the boys singing about wedded bliss.

From roots like this

Couple years later, couple blocks south, couple blocks other side of those train tracks -- one of the kids playing under those clotheslines will be named Henry Louis Gehrig.

The Goldbergs

The lady in the upper left window has to be Mrs. Goldberg. She is getting ready to stick her head out the window and give us some words of wisdom.

Precipitation

Rain must have made for an interesting day at work the next morning.

Recalls Sam Levinson

The Great Sam Levinson wrote of such a scene that his mother's nightgowns hung down a full three stories when wet, and his sister's skirts which "Dripped technicolor onto other people's whites"

Marmoset or Flower Pot?

Great photograph! Is that some sort of an animal on the window sill next to the top, far left?

Btw, I see some unmentionables on the lines, but of course I can't, er, mention 'em.

Hung out to dry

More interesting was watching the man who visited your backyard two or three times a year climb the poles to attach the clotheslines. "I climb poles" would echo through the yards. He charged around 25 cents for the climb and would sell lines and pulleys. If one planned ahead, the line and pulley would have been bought in the local hardware store for a small savings.

PS The roof was used for sunbathing (Tar Beach)

In my world wash day is when

In my world wash day is when I can be sure of a good warm sunny day, or after the heaters go on, whenever i don't mind my lower floor of the house filled with wet hanging clothes. I don't know what folks did when it rained on wash day. I usually pay attention to the weather. If I do get rained out, fortunately there's still laundromats around with electric dryers. I do have a state-of-the-art front loader machine for the washing (anyone want my old maytag wringer?)
I refuse to get a dryer just as I refuse to add a dish washer, or get an air conditioner. One simply has to draw a line.

Make Mine Modern

Gracious me, it makes me grateful for the "carbon footprint" of my washer and dryer for it keeps other "carbon" life forms from not only seeing my unmentionables, bot those who might leave a little carbon signature of their own on them.

That carbon footprint

Of course most of these clothes were washed in boiling water that had been heated on a coal stove. So that's a few tons of soot right there.

The Honeymooners

You can almost hear Ralph yelling out the window at Norton

I wonder why the train wasn't moving

There is no Metro North station (back then, "New York and Harlem" station) between 42nd Street and 125th Street, or at least there hasn't been for a long time. This photo was probably taken through the window of a train that had stopped on the tracks for some reason.

[This photo was made with a giant view camera (11 by 14 inch glass negative) on a tripod. It's not a snapshot from a train window. Detroit Publishing was a professional outfit. - Dave]

Drip Drip Drip

I guess wash day was also No Playing in the Backyard Day!

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

If a big enough gust hit, those building could go sailing off into the sunset.

OMG!

What would today's NIMBYists have to say about this scene?

Day of the week

Must be Monday!

Solar powered

What a beautiful example of a "carbon footprint" this photo is showing. Not an electric clothes dryer in sight. Brings back memories of the postwar 1940s era. For some reason washday was always on a Monday, today's washday is a push of a button any day or time of the week.

Real life in New York City

Wow. Here's the world of my immigrant grandparents -- the intimate backyard world. I love the details of the shirtwaist-wearing women in the top story apartment, whose child is out on the fire escape. And the folks around a table on the right hand side of the picture, one story down. They've got a plant on the fire escape and some other stuff -- it's like a balcony!

Wonderful picture - thanks Dave!

Bombs Away!

Imagine what marks some birds with digestive problems could leave on those washday whites.

The Unmentionables

What? No jockstraps or thongs?

Soggy sox

If putting your wash out on the line causes rain, there must be a hurricane headed for Manhattan.

No. 9

My grandfather was section chief for the DM&IR Railway in Duluth, Minnesota. The company-owned house was directly next to the tracks, as these tenements are. My grandmother was fortunate to have her clothesline on the other side of the house. But I remember her hanging out to the schedule of the Number 9 coming out of the Range with a load of iron ore.

See the lady in the window? Maybe she sees King Kong!

Off line.

Don't the people at the far end of the block do laundry?

 
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