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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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Taking a Shine: 1941

Taking a Shine: 1941

April 1941. "Shoeshine, 47th Street, Chicago's main Negro business street." 35mm negative by Edwin Rosskam for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.

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Native Son's neighborhood

Richard Wright's novel Native Son is set in this neighborhood.

From 1929 to 1932 Richard Wright lived nearby at 4831 South Vincennes.

The photo was taken at 300 East 47th Street. I located it from a companion photo taken from the opposite direction, showing this block is where the L crosses 47th.

One block east, at the beginning of the novel, Jack and Bigger see a movie in the Regal Theater at 47th & South Parkway (now Martin Luther King Boulevard).

Six blocks east and one block north of the Shorpy photo site, Bigger gets a job working for the Dalton family at 4605 South Drexel.

Two blocks west is 47th & Indiana, Ernie's Kitchen Shack, where Bigger takes Mary and Jan when she asks for an authentic place "where colored people eat".

Not just a zoot suit

... take a look at his reet pleat!


Brings back some great memories. I was 10 and my brother was 7 when we shined shoes in College Point NY. We made some great money for the times and kept us in bicycle parts and candy. What a great experience it was. We both grew up to be engineers with a bootblack background to keep our head on straight.

Could it be?

I don't mean to hog the "comments section" but can the man getting his shoes shined possibly be Whistler's Father? I always wondered what happened to him.


He's got the dirtiest job in town, bendin' low at the people's feet on the windy corner of a dirty street ...


One can't help but notice the very sharp and stylish zoot suit with wide-brimmed hat being worn by the black man walking toward the camera. He makes the perfect model for this fashion design with his demeanor of cool and confident.

Zoot suit !

Is that a zoot suit on the left ?

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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