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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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A Hot Mess: 1900

A Hot Mess: 1900

New York circa 1900. "Mess boys, Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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If you flip a 'dixie cup'

The hat worn by the swabby on the left is likely a 'dixie cup' flipped upside down, or turned inside out. When I served, the POD would specify the uniform of the day. In this case, it may be a watch-stander is helping the mess decks get their food delivered while it is still hot. They are no longer around to answer our insipid questions. I thank them for their service posthumously.

Gas or electric light

You still have a choice.

I'm no expert

but in the days before the Navy issued dungarees for work, didn't sailors wear old worn-out dress uniforms for that? Seems that even the engine room crews in these old photos are dressed this way.

Coming or going?

Are they coming from feeding or going to feed the patients? The plates appear to have left overs on them and judging by the loose grip on the pail, it's almost empty.

I was a Tin Can sailor during the 60s. I seem to remember the mess cooks wearing whites even if the uniform of the day was blues. Each division had to supply two or three mess cooks depending on the size of the division. Maybe that's why the two different uniforms.

Appliances do help

Modern appliances, washing powders and detergents not only give a hand to the working homemakers of either sex to keep the house shipshape and copper bottomed. They also help the modern sailor to look neat and clean, freshly machine-washed and electric-ironed most of the time. Not to mention that air conditioning keeps the mildew out. Not having to man-haul thousdands of tons of coal every other week may help, too.

By the way, is that hat on the blue sailor's head regular issue? Looks like a floppy hat used by modern sport fishermen.


Maybe it's my 21st century sensibilities, but it's pretty unnerving to see a cuspidor on a hospital floor.

[Better to spit on the floor? -tterrace]

Shared memories

With JohnMB, Glenn555 & landtuna:

Hot pot! Make a hole!


you never messcranked? I only wonder why blues and whites.

Yes, they are a mess.

I was in the Navy (late 50's). We kept out uniforms clean and pressed. We wore them such that we would at least look neat. These mess boys could not look any worse, but let us not forget at that time they were our heroes.

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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