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The Bird Feeder: 1915

The Bird Feeder: 1915

Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1915. "Feeding the pigeons in Boston Common." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


It's a view of the Park Street entrance

With Park Street and the Park Street Church behind our behatted friend.

From Google Street View:

Boylston Street Kiosk

That is one of the original entrances to the Boylston Street subway station in the background. Opened in 1897, it is one of the two oldest subway stations in North America (Park Street is the other). The MBTA stores some of its old equipment there, so I guess you could call it the Museum station too.

Taken on my last visit to Boston in 2003.

I can't help but think of the song:

Mary Poppins:

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls,
"Come, buy my bags full of crumbs;
Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds," that's what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can't see it,
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she's calling to you
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag"

Change at Park St Under

In view is the northeast corner of Boston Common, looking toward the Park Street Chruch, which is on the northwest corner of Park & Tremont Streets. The small stone building directly behind the young woman is one of the kiosk entrances to the Tremont St subway Park St station. The Tremont St subway was the first ever rapid transit subway in the USA, opened for service 1 Sept 1897. However, rather than "heavy rail" subway trains the line has always been served by electric streetcars, or light rail type vehicles as they are often called today, getting their power from an overhead trolley wire. The line is still up and running, part of the MBTA "Green" line network of light rail lines. The kiosk entrance is still there and in use too.

Park St has long been a major transfer point on the MBTA system, providing subterranean connections for passengers between the "Green" and "Red" rapid transit lines. The somewhat newer "Red" line heavy rail subway train tunnel, opened in 1912, and known for years thereafter as the Cambridge-Dorchester line, is located under the the "Green" line at this point, hence the expression "Change at Park St under".

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

A century ago or so, Americans seem to have liked flocks of pigeons strutting and wheeling about in our public squares, which suggested to them more romantic locales like the Piazza San Marco in Venice. In 1915 San Diego's Panama California Exposition was famous for the pigeons in its Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park, and expo photographers took hundreds of postcard images of tourists happily posing with the hordes of birds, as seen here. Fast forward 60 years, and American cities spent millions to remove decades of encrusted pigeon droppings from public buildings. The droppings harbored heavy concentrations of disease-producing Cryptococcosis and Histoplasmosis fungal spores.

Check Out

the breastworks on the young lady. Mamma Mia!

Rose Kennedy!

You should be home with your children!

Be Prepared

I wouldn't think this lady was completely looney as the color of her outfit and the size of the hat are most appropriate for her chosen activity.

Eating like a bird

I haven't heard that term in a long time, but she looks to me like she eats like a bird!

All The World Seems in Tune on a Spring Afternoon

When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.

Tom Lehrer knew of what he sang

Wolf Pack from the Skies.

I don't personally mind urban pigeons. When I was younger I used to travel to Washington D.C. and would always buy hot dogs from the stands near the Capitol Building. Something I discovered then about pigeons is that they EAT MEAT.


She looks like she could stand a bite to eat herself.

Nice pic

I think it's a great pic. And given the speed of camera shutters back in those days, she probably would've had to hold that pose for quite a while. Which wouldn't have been easy with all those pigeons scratching around at her feet.

[As we can tell from looking at the pigeons and the strollers, this was a very short exposure -- a fraction of a second. Exposure time depends mostly on sensitivity of the emulsion, not "speed of the shutter." - Dave]

Bird Girl Statue

Reminds me of the Savannah "Bird Girl" statue from "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

Hello, Miss 1915

She could be loony, but she looks hot to me.

Women's clothes have changed a lot

Some of the suits men are wearing look as if they wouldn't be far out of style today. But there is at least enough material in the pigeon feeder's dress to make three or four of them now. Six for some celebrities.

Feminine Guiles

"Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly. If my outfit doesn't lure you, perhaps these morsels do."

Fine line on pigeon feeding.

There are mixed schools of thought on this activity. To do it once or twice for a photo op or to amuse a child is one thing. To spend several hours a day and all your disposable income doing it makes one a "flake". Some call pigeons doves. Some call them rats with wings. They can be disastrous to statues and architectural details and can contaminate recreation areas meant to be used by people. Personally I'm not a big fan of pigeons or rats. This lady does look a bit looney, but then who doesn't, at least some of the time. She is being ignored by everyone else in the photo. I do understand the role of carrier pigeons as heroes and I know Mike Tyson is fond of pigeons as pets, so to each his own.


Feeding flying rats isn't cute in even old romantic images!!!

Great Hat

That is a great period scene in Boston and I love the clothes.

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