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Old Corner Bookstore: 1900

Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1900. "Old Corner Bookstore, first brick building in Boston." Detroit Publishing Company 8x10 glass negative. View full size.

Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1900. "Old Corner Bookstore, first brick building in Boston." Detroit Publishing Company 8x10 glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

This must be the original negative for our postcard

The museum I work at has a postcard published from this photo in its collection. You can see this colorized image here. It's interesting to see how this image was used back then.

Bring back the derby and fedora!

Fedoras are back, especially here in New York. I've been wearing them for 4 years. I have a total of three felt fedoras and a straw one, two porkpies, felt and straw and a homburg. Back then was definitely the good old days. People knew how to dress. I wish more people would bring it back. In my opinion after 30 years of sports clothing as the "average daywear" I think it's about time we change back to formal and dress casual.

Street signs

Like many other commenters, I've been to the current store and walked or driven by this building hundreds of time. One thing I found interesting is the street signs on the building. Both are partially hidden by the awnings, but one says School Street and the other says Washington Street. Were street signs on poles not used in that era?

[They were, but not everywhere. - Dave]

The Victorian-era Pointing Hand.

Now we know what inspired the Microsoft programmers when they were developing the Desktop for Windows.

Fickle Finger of Fate

Something I always like in signage of this vintage is the Victorian Directional Hand, employed here to show the way to the Bay State Loan Co. and the Eclipse Pants Co. It makes me wonder what the giant VDH painted on the side of the building at upper right is pointing to, though.


With 42 and counting, this has provoked comments galore!
What is/are the most commented upon photo(s)?

[The Beaver Letter. - Dave]

Wood engraving

I have degree in printmaking and have actually created several wood engravings so I'm especially intrigued with the Robert Stockin Wood Engraving business and wish I could see inside. Wood engravings (not the same thing as woodcuts) were used for newspaper and commercial illustrations. That might be a proofing press in the window immediately left of the shield "erected AD 1712" sign or it might be wishful thinking on my part.

I'm especially fond of the pointing hand of doom on the side of the building in the upper right.

This is a great photo.

Bowler hats

Yes, these are still available. Easy to find on eBay, if you are confident of your size. I bought mine at a western store in Lincoln, Nebraska that has a large period clothing section catering to re-enactors. That way I could try it on.

I wear my bowler every few weeks (to the dismay of my children) and always get positive comments.

So what is that "cell phone" thingy then?

By the way, re: JimsShip, if people can wear pyjamas to the 7-11, you can buy yourself a dapper hat and wear it any time you like!

Another Old Joke

Why did the golfer buy a suit with two pairs of pants?

In case he got a hole in one...

Make Way for Ducklings

In an interesting bit of serendipity, I Just happened to run across my childhood copy of Make Way for Ducklings at my mom's house last weekend. I found every word was deeply lodged in my subconscious although I hadn't read it in at least 30 years. As I re-read it, I wondered if the Old Corner Bookstore (which as a child I assumed was a generic description) still exists. And lo and behold, thanks to Dave and Shorpy, I now know the answer!

Another slice of life

I love the "slice of life" images on Shorpy. The sight of people in the windows is fascinating. These pictures make history come alive and I wish more people could share in that sense of life. Too many think History is a dry, static thing and are unable to make a personal connection.

Me too...

I love how everyone is dressed smartly and I was wondering about the color of their suits. What was the predominant suit color back then ?

[An intensely deep, dark purple. - Dave]

Hats off to Shorpy!

For another excellent find. I always appreciated the era of hats, and being bald now, I long for those days to return. Face it, all I have to choose from is a baseball cap, which makes me look like the world's oldest 10-year-old, or a cowboy hat, which unless you happen to be riding a horse just doesn't cut it. Let's bring back the derby and fedora!


Interesting that the pawn shops and quick loans still exist. And the people, caught in the windows--they had no idea they were being preserved for posterity. 108 years from now, one of us, caught on a cell phone or digital photo will be on Shorpy!

This is within a few years of James Joyce's "Ulysses"--I know it's not Dublin but the details are intriguing.

Pockets and shoes

Not the best fitting suits, but they sure beat pajamas. Check out the pocket-watch pocket on the gentleman in front. No wristwatches yet.

And how about the shine on the shoes in an era where piles of manure had to be navigated while crossing the street. Modern men can take an example of that.

Different Corner

I grew up in Lexington, MA and Boston was my playground. There are a lot of wicked pissa hidden treats all over. Brattle Book shop was established in 1825. Not as old as this building but it smells like history inside and they have an amazing collection of rare books.

Where are the women?

For pete's sake, man! This district has bookstores, engravers, loan sharks, and cut-rate tailors! This is no place for any respectable woman!

By the way, I think Mr. Cell Phone is actually picking his nose!

Dave? Closeup?

Old Joke

I bought a suit with 2 pairs of pants and burned a hole in the jacket.

Compared to today

Everyone's so... thin.

Closeup of Doorway

Would it be possible to get a closeup of the door with the
"Suits ... 16.00" sign to better read the placards.

By the way, other than patronizing your advertisers, is there anything we can do to support this wonderful site?

[Buy a print! - Dave]

The Banker and the Bear

Book ad from June 1900.

No Overweights

Pre-automobiles and pre-fast foods.... look how trim all of the men are regardless of age.

Ann Hutchinson lived there

My 10th great-grandmother, Ann Hutchinson, lived at that location! Just visited it this summer, fun stuff.

Dentist Needed

There must have been a corn-on-the-cob vendor nearby. Three pedestrians are picking their teeth.

Sam, you made the pants too long.

By the way, when do you suppose this building was built? (Just kidding). One common-tater asked what the guy on the fourth floor was doing and my guess would be that he is sewing on a sewing machine as that is exactly the posture he would be in and being that it was on the fourth floor, with no a/c, it must have been warm, dark and stuffy, hence the wide open window. The circular object MAY be a sewing machine or other tailoring tool. I wonder if your younger readers know that in the 1950's and early 60's, men's suits often featured two pairs of pants because most men would remove their jackets at work and the pants would wear out long before the jackets, making the jacket useless. It was a really good idea. I love this photo and particularly the very well-dressed people in the street. There was a time when people had to be "presentable" before they left the house. Since I saw some people last night at the local Seven Eleven in their pajamas, slippers and robes, I fear those days are gone forever. Thanks for a fascinating look back.

Another Cool Boston Feature

Anybody interested can also check out this Google Earth tour of the sites in the famous children's book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.

Old bookstore

I love the finger-o-doom pointing downwards on the building behind. Where are all the women?

Too cool

I'm fascinated by the two young dudes leaning against the lamppost. Are they ogling or hoping to be ogled? Only the attire has changed since then.


I'm somewhat partial to the sign off to the left side for the Eclipse Pants Co., where they offer pants made "at very short notice." Was it common to suddenly need pants in 1900? Never mind any kind of sub-joke about their pants being too short or anything.

Man: Excuse me, shopkeep, but I'm in dire need of pants!
Shopkeep: You've come to the right place. Short notice is all we need.

This may be a stupid question but...

I'm assuming the 'circa 1900' refers to the photo, but now I became curious as to when the actual 'first brick building in Boston' was built. I found this site, which said it was built in 1712 and has pictures of it still standing today.

[Look at the photo. There are two giant signs on the store that say when it was built. - Dave]


Two percent per month works out to "only" 26.82% when compounded annually.

Unfortunately, Google Maps shows this building is gone.

Rens Spaans - Hair Cutter

There's a Dutch name for you. It takes one to know one I guess...

Mr. Spaans was apparently "badly injured" in the March 14, 1887 Bussey Bridge Disaster, the train accident following the collapse of a railroad bridge that left 38 dead and some 40 "more or less injured".

More here.


Loved this picture - so much to look at! Very cool. Thanks!

Time Machine is Working Just Fine

Beautiful and fascinating photograph!


The Old Corner Book Store is now a jewelry store - the building is still there, but the books have long since departed. The cobblestones are still there, though.

Shorpy Zoom Please

Can we get the Shorpy Zoom to shed some light on the three windows with people please? The barber, the wood engraver, and the kid in the attic.

Quick, Marty! I see a time-space wormhole!

Jeez, the man standing right on the corner is using a cellphone!

Circa 1900

Must be the photo, not the bookstore that's circa 1900 since Boston's first brick building must have been built many years before 1900.

[There are two giant signs on the store that say when it was built. - Dave]

Is that...

The current Boston Globe Bookstore?

The Corner Store

I'm always wondering why I can't find a good old corner bookshop-barber-loan shark-jeweler-wood engraver-tailor place anymore.

Great Pic

Using Google Street View, you can see the building still stands. I'm fascinated by the people you can spy through the windows--the barber, and assorted other folks. I especially enjoy the class case suspended on the second floor full of trousers.

Covered Heads

Every man has a hat on. Also, I wonder what the guy in the 4th floor window is doing and what's that circular object in the window?

Old Corner Bookstore

A picture and more information about the Old Corner Bookstore.

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