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Tipple Boy: 1908

Tipple Boy: 1908

        UPDATE: The historian Joe Manning has more on the life of Otha Porter Martin here.

October 1908. "Tipple boy at the Turkey Knob coal mine in Macdonald, West Virginia." Says the LOC: "Patron identifies this as her grandfather, Otha Porter Martin, born July 3, 1897." Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Story of Tipple Boy

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. I just completed my story about this boy, Otha Porter Martin. I interviewed some of his grandchildren. It's quite a story. He lived to be 87 years old. You can find the story at this link:

Open lights in a coal mine?


And considering that safety mine lamps have been invented almost 100 years before the time of that photo, even a couple of competing designs within a few years, making those people work with crap like that was not just callous, but criminal.

By the way, electric isn't all that popular in coal mines if it's not batteries. An ex colleague of mine who had been a mechanic in a mine, told me that stationary lights there were run on pressurized air. Air turns turbine, turbine turns generator, generator runs light. All in a noisy, compact, gasproof, sparkproof package. Ventilation free of charge.

First photo I thought of

Until I found Shorpy, the first photo I thought of when I heard a reference to child labor laws was this one. I'm glad to know that this boy at least lived long enough to have a family.

So many of those boys photographed during this period were of an age where they might have served in WWI (like Shorpy did). I'd be willing to bet that those young men tended to complain much less about the drills, the facilities, the food, etc., than those who grew up more privileged. I'll bet even those who made it to the trenches in France complained less. Those boys in the coal mines even saw death, regularly.

To think Shorpy could have been

Bankers & Miners

The Tipple Boy and the additional images supplied in the comments took me back 30 years when I was a teenager working as a teller in a northern Indiana bank. The first time I saw a government check from the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, it was an eye-opener. I had previously assigned black lung disease to a bygone era, and furthermore didn't feel a geographic or economic connection to the working conditions in the mining industry. It was one of those moments for me, as a naive kid, when I started thinking about the big picture.

Rock Star

I recognize this from a wildly different source. Celtic rock fans will know this picture as the cover of the Seven Nations album "The Factory."

Otha Porter Martin

This is another photograph I recognized from my time spent on the LOC website. Another visitor identifies him as her grandfather Otha Porter Martin, born July 3, 1897. So nice when you can put a name to a face!

[Thanks! I've added that to the caption. - Dave]


This picture makes me incredibly sad! I want to give him a big hug. He looks old beyond his time. He reminds me of Shorpy! These boys reslly never had a childhood. What a waste! Hopefully they grew strong and had a happier life later~

Miners lamp

The lamp is a carbide lamp. One used solid carbide in the lamp body and added water to it and lit the carbide gas that it produced.

Tipple Boy

I'm not sure what you mean by genetic sameness. Inter-breeding? Let's break out the 'ole genetic charts from WWII Germany and compare notes. I believe all the Jews during that time were also subjects of genetic sameness. Re: the mobility theory. Why do the indigenous Peruvians resemble the Indians on the islands of San Blas? I would think mobility would be a bigger issue for these two groups but they must be inter-breeding because they have the same features. I think the people from NYC are inter-bred because they sound alike. What a silly conclusion. The miners of Central Appalachia came from many ethnic backgrounds during this time.

[It's a typo. He meant "generic," not genetic. - Dave]


Tipple refers to the superstructure above ground that housed the draw works (hoist engine, cable drum, gear head etc) and the conveyor that took the ore away when the ore cart was tipped when it reached the surface.

Work Uniform

Close-fitting clothing was very important for a job like that.

From the photos, they must also have worn goggles at work.

[No goggles. - Dave]

What's on his head?

What is on his head?

[A miner's headlamp (examples below). More information here. - Dave]

Shorpy II

He resembles our Shorpy...there is a genetic sameness to a lot of these boys in Appalachia from this father said in WW II it was easy to pick out guys from central Appalachia...they all looked very much the same, in a time when people were not as mobile as now.

Tipple Definition

What is a Tipple boy? I tried looking it up on line, but all definitions of tipple I could find had to do with alcohol.

[It's a boy who works in the tipple. - Dave]

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