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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 • STAY ONE JUMP AHEAD OF TROUBLE, 1945

Sugar and Spice: 1900

Sugar and Spice: 1900

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1900. "Merry-go-round in Clark Park." 8x10 inch (cropped) dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Metal 'maypoles'

At school in 1958, Santa Maria, CA there were two 'swings' as we called them on the play ground. They were very tall and had chains which hung down with handle grips at the end of each chain so we could all run, then fly into the air. The best riders would weave in and out of the slower riders until all our chains were tangled and we would have to stop to sort them out. Now, some kids would lose grip and fly off leaving their 'swing' to fly around with the rest of us.
Needless to say, it was exhilarating, truly wonderful to play on. The worst that I EVER remember happening was bloodied knees from bad landings. I'm sure there were those who got knocked in the head or mouth with the flying handles- but I would never trade those recesses for all the padded plastic safe playgrounds offered today.

This was taken in 1956. Closest I ever got to flying.

Photographer

I would like to write an essay on this photography for school. Do you have the photographers name?

[Most of the photographers, all employees of the Detroit Publishing Co., were apparently not specifically identified in the company records that accompanied the collection, which is now at the Library of Congress. - tterrace]

Playground casualties

I have to agree with MarkJ .. I don't see anything inherently dangerous in this roundabout. As soon as children are let loose on anything which moves, and which they control, accidents of some sort are inevitable. Older kids here in England, having survived the extremely safe, but lame, modern playground equipments, buy small cars and drive them at ridiculous speeds; there is an extremely high accident rate. Kids and machinery will always result in accidents.

I suspect that many of the people who view this magnificent website regularly climbed trees as children, played on ice on ponds, raced their home-made carts down steep inclines and suffered an amazing array of grazed elbows, knees and etcetera. 99.9% recurring survived to the present day.

Better that, by far, than having children huddled in front of computers, with their concomitant lack of social skills.

I wouldn't have missed those days for the world.

Profound thanks to Dave for this superlative resource. I have spent hours scouring it already -- truly amazing!

David, Leicestershire, England

Ennui

The little girl in the back on the right seems bored. I think she wants to go in for some milk and cookies.

Crack in the park

You might get a sliver off this machine, but it's a lot safer than the metal roundabouts we played on in the 1950s. Both my brother and I got broken legs off the '50s version.

Pollyanna

The period fashions remind me so much of the movie that I expected to see Hayley Mills in this photo.

Playground Dangers!?

In the 1950s, we had a metal versions of this mechanical marvel of kid-powered fun.

Playground folklore for this and even more dangerous "rides" included tales of "the kid who lost a finger," and the like. Do they still have these in kiddie parks?

Another look at that scene

I think the girls' Sunday-best garb was because they were at someone's party in the park (or a house nearby), and were taking a break between rounds of pin-the-tail and olly-olly-in-free. Or maybe they were waiting for that delivery boy to show up with party grub, although they probably referred to it more young lady-like.

Long-ago

I was born in 1950. These little sweethearts would have been my present age then, looking back wistfully upon their long-ago childhood as I do mine now.

Concussions, Ahoy!

A common complaint these days is how overly-concerned about safety people are that they've "taken the fun" out of childrens play...

"In my day, no one wore helmets riding their bikes and we all lived to tell about it!"

"In my day, had metal monkey bars in the parks with none of this fancy rubber padding underneath and and WW all lived to tell about it!"

They seem to have forgotten the number of kids they knew who flew off the spinny things pictured above and cracked their heads open, fell off their bikes and got concussions, and broke their arms falling off the monkey bars.

Quite frankly, given the number of times I and people I knew broke appendages and concussed ourselves when we were kids, I wonder how we DID survive!

The guy in the back

Is looking to see where the next pizza gets delivered.

Speaking as a mother

I'm not sure what would have driven me more crazy..trying to keep my "all dressed in light colors" child tidy and clean or trying to lace up the boots of the girl in the front!

Multi-Purpose

Today that same merry-go-round sleeps six to eight.

Splinters

That thing is a public risk analyst's nightmare.

Adorable

From afar, black and white pictures of children always creep me out and I blame horror movies that insist on featuring children as evil-doers ("The Bad Seed", anyone?).

When I click on the picture however, the girls look like any other child one I'd run into--innocent, sweet, and charming. I absolutely adore the fact that little girls dressed so nicely back in the day--the pigtails, bows, stockings, and frocks.

Not to get into the whole "now vs. then" comparison, but today, girls and boys wear similar clothes (jeans and a t-shirt), which, while more comfortable, does lose a bit of sweetness. In this day and age, who would dress up like this to go to the park?

Long whirled away

When I first moved to Detroit in the summer of 1965, I lived at the YMCA that faced the park's northwest corner I was 17 and on my own, with a summer job at the Cadillac plant a few blocks north on Clark Street, which led to a 37-seven year career with General Motors. I do remember afternoons in the park after work -- evenings were getting to be a little dangerous. I am sure when these young ladies were there it was a much safer place. They may even have gone to the amusement park at the far south end (long gone when I lived there).

A random view into the park:


View Larger Map

I know what comes next!

The girl on the right will try to make the girl in the middle throw up and get dizzy. Then the older gal will try to make peace and finally decide it is time to grow up and get paid to be a nanny.

Will she have brats of her own? Stay tuned!

Mexicantown

What a charming photo. I drive by this park all the time. It is located in Mexicantown and is across the street from Western International High School.

 
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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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