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About the Photos

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 • ABOUT PARIS, 1895

Main Street: 1920

Main Street: 1920

Fall River, Massachusetts, circa 1920. "Main Street." Where Hustle meets Bustle. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

My Grandfather

My grandfather was a young police officer around this time and makes me wonder if he could be among the three or four police officers I can see in this photo. I find it fascinating to think of the possibility.

Also, I thought the fire was stopped at the building just before the Daily Globe and then the wind shifted to the east sending it up Bedford Street. And I'll have to check, but I thought you could still see some of the Globe lettering on the side of the building. Perhaps just a memory from my youth.

Photographer, please wait 15 seconds!

Don't shoot yet, I'd like to see the face of this mystery girl more close. Please, wait until she gets the sunny spot. Thanks!

Gold Dust Twins

If you're at all interested in advertising before 1960, I recommend hunting down a copy of Frank Rowsome's "They Laughed When I Sat Down: An Informal History of Advertising in Words and Pictures." You'll find the origins of all kinds of things that are still current (e.g., the origin of "Sunny Jim", Pears' Soap, and on and on).

Interesting note

this entire section of main street was destroyed by a fire on February 2, 1928.

Apothecary!

What are cold and grip pills?

[Remedies for people with colds or the grip (also spelled grippe). - Dave]

I have two very different responses to this photo

This picture brings about two very different responses in me.

(1) Being that I'm a huge history buff born and brought up in the U.S., these snapshots of old Americana are so exciting for me. Like others, I love combing through the photo for fascinating details, and can't help but wonder what these lovely people talked and thought about as they went about their day. Likely, save for references to modern amenities and gadgets, I'd probably marvel at how their ponderings don't veer that far from my own every day ones.

Soon after, I start wishing I could step into the photograph and walk among these people. I'd love to eavesdrop and interact with them, smell the air around us, take in the warmth of the sun, and just feel the difference a century makes.

This rumination however, quickly brings on my second response:

(2) As a person of color I wonder how reality would really shape my experience walking down this street. How would I be looked at and treated by these people? I see the joviality and smiles on their faces, but I wonder if I would be shunned and turned away from if I were the one to approach them.

Someone mentioned the civility with which these people seem to present themselves, and I certainly understand that it was in response to their clothes and manner of walk, but I wonder how civil they would be when faced with someone of differing color?

(Sorry to bring this up, this is just what my damn brain turns to and till now, I've never spoken of it on this site).

Gold Dust Twins

The fabled Gold Dust Twins! I have heard about them all my life, but this is the first time I've laid eyes on them. Thank you, Dave.

[You're welcome, and you can see more of them here. - Dave]

Cars & More Cars

It is amazing just how quickly the automobile took over the center of the cities. In pics from 1905 hardly any cars, around 1910 we see a few more, but by 1920 they dominate the scene!

Stars and Stripes

It's interesting to count the flags; nearly every business seems to be displaying one.

Speaking of signs

Note the one for Occident Flour. I'd like to make more and better bread too. (She says while surfing the net at work.) But I'm such a Shorpy addict!

Rexall

I had no idea Martin Balsam's middle name was "Cough."

Re: Took an axe

I think Lizzie was a bit of a recluse by this time. She was very big into animal care. The human-nature specialist will give a knowing nod on that fact.

Wow

In all of the hundreds (thousands) of photos I have ravenously devoured since discovering Shorpy just recently, this one has to be the most richly detailed. Wonderful!

Your diligent work has had a profound impact on me, Dave. Thanks so much.

Standing on the Corner

Watching all the girls phweet phwew go by. The guys on the right of the photo are great! As mentioned previously, the interaction between so many of these people on the street is wonderful to see. Now I think they would be talking but not face to face.

Standing on the Corner

Watching all the girls go by. Wait, that was the Four Lads. 1953. Some things never change.

Judging by the amount of people

it must be a Saturday.

Same woman

The woman with the wide white collar by the Drugstore is also in this photo!

Long may she wave

There's a little flag on the window of the A.G. Weeks office on the left. I've never seen that in this era of photos. I wonder if it's painted or a decal.

Signs of the Times

I'm nostalgic for the civility evident in a photo like this. There is an obvious formality in the architecture and dress but it is balanced by a casual interaction evidenced by the people stopping to chat in the street, walking and shopping. The streets are busy but no one is racing. This was the only "social network"! As a sign painter (rapidly becoming a dinosaur) I'm just staggered by the volume and variety of the work in this and many similar shots. Before the dominance of the computer all this work was done by hand and there was enough work to keep any skilled craftsman busy full time. No corporate plastic indistinguishable from one city to the next. Thanks for letting me time travel back to my grandfathers time -- the upside of the computer!

Ashes by now

Pretty much everything in this photo is gone. A massive fire in 1928 destroyed many of the buildings seen here, including the Mohican Hotel, the Globe Newspaper building, and the Wilbur.

The imposing edifice on the right is City Hall, which was demolished in the 1960s to make room for I-195.

Fall River had been a massive, highly prosperous textile manufacturing city in the late 1800s. As the mills closed or moved south in the 1930s, the city suffered an economic collapse and never recovered. It's a pretty sad, empty place today.

Weather Station

Wow! An awful lot going on in this picture! I like the weather instruments perched atop the corner of the building in the upper left. I wonder if that belongs to the drug store below or an amateur meteorologist?

A Hat Company's Dream

Nary a man, women or child who doesn't don a hat! I have worn "old men's hats" since I was in high school, and it's hard to find fedoras these days.

I love studying the people and try and imagine what the conversations of the day were about. Of course, I am a pipe smoker, so my eyes were drawn to one on the sidewalk. Lots to look at in this photo!

Took an axe

Look for an older lady in the photo. It could be Lizzie Borden, who would have been 60 around the time of this picture.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
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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