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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Young Readers: 1941

The Young Readers: 1941

Feb. 1, 1941. "Brooklyn Public Library (Ingersoll Memorial), Prospect Park Plaza. Librarian's desk, sharp view." 5x7 acetate by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Polio leg braces

I recall that my dad's sister spent 13 years on her back looking into a tiny mirror mounted above her iron lung machine after she was stricken by polio.

When a cure was slowly produced my aunt Anita Moe became well enough to undergo an operation to fuse her hip and leg to a point where she could walk with the aid of a cane and a similar leg brace and shoe. My heart goes out to that little girl. I'll bet she was teased quite a bit. She became the Chairperson for the Chicago Heart Foundation until stricken by a stroke and soon her life ended.

Feb. 1, 1941

This was the day the library opened to the public after four years of construction. History of the Library.

"I'm Elaine and these are my socks."

Take your eyes off the gaiters and check out the third girl from the left. Were monogrammed socks in style in 1941 or was Elaine just fearful of sock thieves?

Leg braces

My uncle was wounded in the Korean war and had to wear leg braces that were attached permanently to boots.

The little girl's shoes do resemble those boots quite a bit, right down to the heel.

Cold Legs

Having been a little girl in the 1940s before girls were allowed to wear slacks or pants to school, I know how cold it was wearing little cotton dresses and bobby socks in the winter. Many of the girls who had access to riding jodhpurs or snow pants wore them to school over their dresses. They had to be checked into the cloakroom for the school day. How I envied them. My mother thought the winter weather in San Francisco not cold enough to go to the expense of buying a pair of snow pants for me. I did finally talk her into buying me some knee socks.

Nine out of Ten are Goils

Seems rather strange that in Brooklyn there were nine goils (Brooklyn accent) to every boy. How will they all find dates for the prom in ten years?

My Aunt

My aunt, who had muscular dystrophy, wore leggings just like those to cover her leg braces when she was a girl in the 1950s.

The first young lady in front of the desk

has some leggings(?) on. My first thought was chaps, but a riding a pony to the library in Brooklyn in 1941 SEEMS unlikely.

Would those perhaps be to cover leg braces? Polio was my second thought. Anyone remember something of the sort?

[The consensus seems to be that they might be covers for leg braces of the type worn by kids who've had polio. - Dave]

Team Librarian

I wonder how many librarians it took to raise those blinds to the top of the window.

I hate budget cuts!

A brand new library and not one table or chair for these kids.


Seventy years later, my daughter has the same Madeleine book in the background. First thing I thought of was how these young lives were changed by December of that year.

The leather-look

I love those leather gaiters the girl up front is wearing! All zips and buckles! I'd have killed for a pair of those. Sadly, I was stuck wearing snow pants and galoshes like the girl at the back of the line. She's got her dress tucked into her pants, too, I'll bet.

In 1968, we (the Grade 7 and 8 girls) had a sit-in to protest not being able to wear pants in school. We won. Nothing like having to walk to school in -20 temps in bare legs or have to wear snow pants under your mini-skirt.

Signs of Newness

They must have just opened the building. A fresh bulb garden and all the cupboards behind the desk are empty. I suppose librarians are extra tidy though. Floors could also use a waxing.

Girl in the foreground...

What the heck is the footwear she's wearing?

Polio Leg Braces

A not-uncommon sight before the Salk and Sabin vaccines. These have a leather zip-up winter cover.

Leg braces

It looks like the little girl to left has leg braces. Is this how they use to treat polio after the fact?

Are those boots?

On that young lady in front, are those boots or some kind of brace?

On the shelf

"The smallest one was Madeline."

Interesting Attair

Feb 1941, the young lady, closes to the camera wearing winter leggings. Then the young man next to her in shorts! Yes there is snow outside.


Full leathers on the girl at the counter? Left her Harley outside?
And the young lady dressed from the waist up as a little girl and as a soldier from the waist down!

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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