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Oysterboy: 1909

Oysterboy: 1909

January 1909. Apalachicola, Florida. "A young oyster fisher. Randsey Summerford says he starts out at 4 a.m. one day, is out all night in the little oyster boat and back next day some time. Gets a share of the proceeds. Said he was 16 years old and been at it four years. Lives in Georgia and is here six months a year." Glass negative and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


Tough Oystermen

To further Anonymous Tipster's point from 2008, the young men who worked the oyster boats in Apalachicola, Florida, were indeed tough. I lived in that wonderful town for about five years in the mid-1960s and Chapman High's football team was consistently much better than others in their class. Considering how small that school was, it was remarkable.

I always chalked that up to the work many of those young men did on oyster boats. Their upper-body strength was uncanny.



This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. You can see my story of this boy at this link:

Oyster Tongs

One thing I can tell you about oyster tonging is it takes a real man to do it all day. When I lived on the Chesapeake Bay in the 60's and 70's I had the opportunity to try my hand at using oyster tongs to harvest ain't easy!!! The heavy tongs hinge about where his right hand is and when dropped straight down to the bottom the jaws open about one foot for a spread at the surface of about four feet. After closing the jaws to scrape oysters from the bed the rig is hauled back up and opened to release the oysters on deck. For pussies like you and I it is hard just to do it a few times much less all day. Oystermen have fantastic arm and chest muscles and one thing for sure, don't ever get in a brawl with them...they are as tough as they come. When I went out with friends who were from oystering families they had quite a good-natured laugh at my pathetic attempts to oyster, though I worked out and was fairly active....after a few trips to the bottom and back I was pooped. So think about that when you look at these guys in the picture who had arguably one of the toughest jobs ever. "Oyster Boy" indeed!

Photoshop foot

Why doesn't his left foot cast a shadow like his right?

[It does. - Dave]

Smells Fishy

Why is this kid the only white person in the frame? In this part of the country, (where I currently live) oystering was usually a family enterprise and it is very odd that a Negro crew would have a white employee (although, not vice-versa). I hope we find out more of backstory because I suspect, the census not withstanding, that Hines [sic] was either mislead [sic] or artfully arranged these people to fit his crusade against child labor.

[Hine's caption notation from a different oystering photo: "Mostly negro workers. The boss said, 'We keep only enough whites so we can control the negroes and keep them a-going!' " Below: Another mostly black Apalachicola oyster crew from January 1909. - Dave]

Oyster Boy

Joe Manning, from the Lewis Hine Project. This young man died in 1971. I have requested his obit, and I have the address of one of his relatives. I'll let you know what happens.

Randsey Summerford

...seems to be listed in the 1910 U.S. Census as Lounzo Summerford / Semmerfort, home Apalachicola, Franklin, Florida, occupation oysterman, age 18 born about 1892 in Georgia, father born in Louisiana but not listed, mother Margaret, 56, born in Georgia, one sister, Gena, same age and birthplace.

His Left Foot

I wonder what happened to his other shoe.

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