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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 • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

Gay Street: 1903

Gay Street: 1903

Knoxville, Tennessee, circa 1903. "Gay Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

James Agee -- "A Death in the Family"

I was fascinated to see this photo, as it gives me new insight into one of my favorite books, "A Death in the Family" by James Agee. The book is based on Agee's childhood in Knoxville in the 1910s:

It was full dark now, but still early; Gay Street was full of absorbed faces; many of the store windows were still alight. Plaster people, in ennobled postures, stiffly wore untouchably new clothes; there was even a little boy, with short, straight pants, bare knees, and high socks, obviously a sissy: but he wore a cap, all the same, not a hat like a baby. Rufus' whole insides lifted and sank as he looked at the cap and he looked up at his father; but his father did not notice. ... Remembering his rebuff of a year ago, even though it had been his mother, Rufus was afraid to speak of it. His father wouldn't mind, but she wouldn't want him to have a cap, yet. ... He watched the absorbed faces pushing past each other and the great bright letters of the signs: "Sterchi's." "George's." I can read them now, he reflected. I even know how to say "Sturkeys."

Devastating Fire there in 1902

A relative of mine - 3xgreat uncle - was M.L. Ross, owner of the grocery whose name is just legible on the white building next to (behind) the building with the lion.

The M.L. Ross building was heavily damaged in a 1902 fire but apparently restored in time for this photo. The building was then destroyed in a 1904 fire that started in the Phoenix building, which is the taller building next to (behind) the M.L. Ross building. Atop the Phoenix building there's some kind of creature I take to be a Phoenix. Perhaps it was called the Phoenix building because it survived the fire of 1902 (or the even more devastating fire of 1897 - poor Uncle M.L couldn't catch a break.)

A news story in the Logansport Ind. Daily Reporter says that the fire broke out at the Murphy and Robinson millinery company in the Phoenix Building. The walls of the Phoenix Building crashed through the ceiling of the M.L. Ross building. "Out of seven men who were in the building, only two were caught" - apparently killed.

M.L. Ross - said to be Knoxville's top seller of ginger ale - rebuilt once again, though, and you can see a very similar, but not identical, building at 422 S. Gay St. in Knoxville, using Google street view. It is now home to the Art Market, a gallery.

Dance Club

I spent my college years in the 1990s going to a dance club down at the end of this street close to that Sterchi's sign. And of course I have to wonder whether this shows the watch shop that featured prominently in that monologue of Christopher Walken's in Pulp Fiction.

Ba-dum bum

I dunno, it looks pretty straight to me.

Walla-Walla gum

Reminds me of my days with the Acme Novelty Company.

Chilled what?

Second story, above the lion, to the left: Oliver Chilled ... what -- Plums?? Plows?? Of all the fantastic things going on in this picture, I've zeroed in on that, ha ha.

[Oliver Chilled Plows, of course. - Dave]

Maybe So

The baths are down on the left.

I'm Good

Drop me off at the Noah's Ark 5&10 with a five dollar bill, then forget where you left me.

Wires!

We need more wires!

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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