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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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And It Comes Out Here: 1930

And It Comes Out Here: 1930

1930. "The hen with the mechanical internal organs surprised visitors at the World's Poultry Congress in London by giving a brief lecture on how she utilized her food to make eggs. Prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Oil can

That oil can would presumably be the chicken's oil gland. Should you wish to find and remove the oil gland from your own (dead) chicken's back end, Madam Internet is here to help:

If Rube Goldberg

...had invented the chicken, this is how we'd get our eggs. Just one would make omelettes for the whole family.

If Raymond Scott hadn't written "Powerhouse," the best music to accompany this picture would be Danny Elfman's opening theme for "Pee Wee's Big Adventure."

In Golden Retirement...

I hope our English-speaking hen and her phonograph are resting comfortably in a dusty closet of the Smithsonian right now...because the thought of Our Girl in the depths of some landfill, her tin men rusting and her rubber tubing decomposing, would break my heart!

And I'm with Catherine...the absurd photos are the best!

(Followed closely by the slice-of-life pics no one ever thought would be so cherished and scrutinized by the Shorpy gang years later as we examine tumblers and advertisements and sugar bowls!)


Okay, The Department of Redundancy Department has a few questions.
1. How do we get rounded eggs out of square boxes?
2. The oil can in the back - is that for dookey or some sort of in-flight refueling system?


I'm so glad I'm not the only one who immediately started hearing "Powerhouse" in my head. Or thought of the old Bufferin ads.

Anyone who ate school lunches should be gratified by this photo. It shows that -- as we suspected -- chickens are full of rubber tubing.

Canard Digérateur

Makes me think of Vaucanson's duck.


Oh Dave, you've done it again. I always log on here at morning tea, spat my cookie everywhere on seeing this one. The title cracked me up.

Squawk Box

Guess I underestimated the old hen!

Does this meet PETA standards?

This picture does qualify as something interesting, just as the tagline promises.
Does this prove that if you build a better chicken you get better eggs?


Is this not reminiscent of "Operation," the board game that's been around now for a couple of generations? I rediscovered it for the benefit of my eight-year-old daughter.

Diagrammed Innards

How many others of my generation immediately thought of Bufferin when they saw this?


I mean, is there no privacy left in this world? Turn your head and cluck.

Who knew?

I keep a couple of laying hens in my backyard. I had no idea that they had little tin men inside doing all the work!

United Intra-Hen Workers, Local 803

I feel bad for all those little guys toiling away in there. Do you suppose those are union jobs?

Talking hens?

Somehow, I find it hard to believe that the hen really gave a lecture. Nevertheless, I love this picture. The really absurd photos are the best!

["This giant hen is fitted with a strong voice, and a special phonograph record gives her the opportunity to explain the internal processes which are observed by all who see her. Thus she can be well understood, for she speaks English, whereas the garden type speaks a language only somewhat imperfectly understood by poultry farmers." - Dave]


I must have watched too many Warner Brothers cartoons, because "Powerhouse" is playing in my head now.

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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