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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Mass. Mess: 1900

Mass. Mess: 1900

Circa 1900. "U.S.S. Massachusetts crew at mess." Watermelon -- yay! 8x10 inch glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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The old Navy

Bare feet on the mess deck is not allowed, but there they are.

Not Rank There

Rank And Rate

     Side note to "Truck5man" and "codebasher" in the Navy the officers have rank and enlisted men have ratings.

     Now hear this! Stand down, turn to and make your Groucho Marx type jokes about rank officers.

Comments add so much!

I love the discussions of things like this. The input from others, added to the information in the photo, teaches and gives us so much more of a feel for the experiences of people who lived before we were born.

As far as the bread, it may well be hardtack but I hope, for the sake of the men, that it was toast! I've seen Andrew Zimmern eat a salad made with hard-tack that didn't look too bad, but it was soaked for a long time and had lots of things added to it. Just a plain piece of it would have fallen in the category of things one only eats to keep his belly from growling. Those older sailors, who had probably had some teeth pulled by that time, must have had an especially hard time eating it!

William Christen, I love your pictures!

Mess Misc.

Compared to today's Navy, these fellows look so old but there obviously were many more lifers then...old tars. The sailors on the left side of the photo look like they're still waiting for their food while the other guys are digging in.

Still not as good.

I agree with Edvado. The old system was better. One click to see the full size photo AND the comments, and more importantly, one click to get back to the front page. Now it takes two clicks each way and it's easy to get lost so it takes several clicks to get untangled. The full size photos do load faster however.

[Actually there's less clicking now, if you count scrolling as clicking. - Dave]

On a Macbook or other Apple products, two fingers stroking the screen or pad scroll you around with no clicks at all. This was much nicer on the old scheme.

Watermelon ??

Spent three years aboard ship in the Navy back in the 60's. Never ever did I see a watermelon cross our mess deck! Apples and citrus fruits galore but no watermelon.

These sailors would faint

if they could have a meal on board any of today's US Navy vessels.

In 1917

In 1917 grandfather was a Chief Commissary Steward on the USS Indiana, a sister ship of the USS Massachusetts. These two ships and the third in the class, The USS Oregon also seen in the past on Shorpy) I am sure the fare was the same--perhaps no hardtack. Some of the faces might have younger as the Navy had a maximum age limit by then

First image: Cooks and bakers on the USS Indiana (1917).
Second image: food prep in the USS Indiana galley.

Format Change

What works for me is center-clicking on the small image to open up comments in a second tab, then center-clicking the small image in the second tab to get the full size image on a third tab. Then it's just a matter of switching tabs to view details or read comments about the image.

I didn't like it at first, but being able to read comments and look at details without having to scroll up and down from one to the other is an improvement. I suppose we could do that before, but with the comments included under the full sized image it never occurred to me to try.

Re: Comments?

I was originally as disconcerted by the new format as was Edvado, but now I'm clicking on the small picture to see the comments and when I get to the top I click on the small picture again to see the full size picture. It's not as comfortable as before, but it works. Thanks Dave for the continuing good work!

Smellin' Like a Rose.

Dear Truck5man, Precisely because all those men lived in such intimate surroundings, hygiene was, and still is, an item of pride in the U.S. Navy. The only RANK here was denoted by uniform markings.

Any sailor who got sloppy about his cleanliness would probably be given an involuntary scrub-down, fore and aft, by his shipmates with a stiff brush and lye soap.

The only exception was a pre-nuke, pre-diesel ship at sea. If water could not be distilled fast enough, the priority was always drinking water first, boiler water second and bath water a distant third. Of course there was always sea-water and a bucket.

The name is Bond, James Bond

The guy second from the left with the pipe behind him is the spittin image of Sean Connery


That looks like a piece of ship's biscuit, or hardtack. One may wonder why he's displaying it so proudly.

All those hooks

I'm wondering if this area was also the crew's bunk space as well as mess. By the looks of them (each numbered, by the way) I'd think each hook would be a place to hang a hammock, or one half of the hammock, anyway. Maybe also a convenient place to hang a hat while having a bite to eat.

My first thought

Wow, dozens of men in a small steel room surrounded by machinery. That must have been LOUD in there. Then I realized that this was taken long before deodorant was commonly used and it must have been RANK in there!

Toast and Jam

Endless Summer has better eyes than I do! On the blow up, it certainly does look like a piece of toast. I hope it didn't have weevils in it. My dad spent time aboard ship in the 1940s and said the bread often had weevils in it, but they ate it anyway. They couldn't keep it out of the flour, and it added protein.

It looks like maybe this kind of toaster was used. It is a non-electric model, so I assume they heated it on a stove top.

re: Toast

Looks like he is holding up a piece of hardtack, a staple of the navy going back to the Revolution. Simply a hard biscuit made of flour and water (Civil War soldiers called them Army Bread, wormcastles (because when they got moist they would get infested with insects) and tooth-breakers) You can buy some here from a company that's made it since 1801:


Were the comments intentionally removed from the bottom of the full-sized image, or is my browser acting up again? If it was intentional, let me go on record as disliking it. I now have to click two places and toggle back and forth to see both. Yuck!

[Click on the full-size image to see the comments. - Dave]

Maybe he wanted some jam

The dark-skinned diner over the standing-in-front-guy's right shoulder is holding up what appears to be a piece of toast. Curious.


Two thoughts; that is a lot of asbestos, and the sailors of 100 years ago were a lot older than today's lot.


Are mustaches a requirement for sailors at the turn of the century? All of the men in the front seem to have them.

Hats Off to You!

Is the hat in the top foreground hanging there, or was it thrown there, or (I hope) was the sailor was so surprised by the flash that it flew there?!?

SHORPY OLD 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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