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In My Room: 1941

June 1941. "Untitled (Hotel room, Milwaukee, Wisconsin)." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

June 1941. "Untitled (Hotel room, Milwaukee, Wisconsin)." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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re: Chicken Wire

The wire mesh glass is more fire-resistant than regular glass (but less tough). And Shorpyites know all about hotels and fires...

Where's the Beer?

I guess some things are best kept out of sight.

700 Block of North Plankinton Avenue

I don't think the hotel is still there, but the building across the street still is. It is the old Waldheim's Furniture Building. Now loft condos.

Nothing missing

Steam heat, operable window with shade and drapes, dresser with mirror, ashtray the size of a wading pool, comfy bed, Ameche with directory, nightstand with lamp, sink for morning wash & brush-up, mystery ellipse on floor under sink, wallpaper that won't keep you up at night. Wisconsin was a home game for the Gideons, so that is certainly covered also.

All you could expect of a downtown hotel room in 1941. I'm guessing that it's about a $5 room.

re: Chicken Wire

Looks like a kind of safety glass. It had 'chicken wire' embedded in it. My grade school had this in all the ground floor windows and doors.

Re: Chicken wire

I think that is that kind of glass they used to have in old schools that had wire embedded in it to keep it from shattering.


The chickenwire was embedded in the glass to prevent it from shattering. Used to be quite common.

Welcome to the Hotel Wisconsin

Looks like John Vachon is staying at the Hotel Wisconsin, which is now the Grand Wisconsin Apartments. The view is looking east toward Waldheim's Furniture, and that building also still exists.

Signs of the Times

I love the placement of the faucet spout. So high up the wall. It would be great for washing your hair. Although the splashing from so high up could be messy.

With his wallet out and so close to the pillow, do you think this could have been for police evidence? Taken just after his room was broken into?

And a soon to be a vanishing relic from the past. The telephone book. It was such a basic necessity back in the day. Now you can hardly find one.

Dang I love this site. Thanks guys.

That ashtray

DAMN that's a big ashtray. I assume that's what the flat glass object on the dresser is.

High-capacity, perhaps, as a safety measure, to reduce the frequency with which it would be dumped into the trash, with the attendant fire risk?

Chicken wire

Is that what was used for a screen? Can't imagine it would keep too many insects out!

[Zero chickens here, so it must work. - Dave]

The Hotel Wisconsin

A July 5, 1941 letter to Vachon from FSA's Roy Stryker indicates Vachon was staying in the Hotel Wisconsin on this visit. That 500-room hotel, constructed in downtown Milwaukee in 1913, survives today as a renovated apartment building.

The everyday world

I like some of these photos by Vachon - no drama. no pathos, no unusual point to be made, just a document showing how things were and what they were. The "stick" telephone, the sink, the style of furniture, all these give a feeling of the time and place.

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