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Abe Singer: 1917

Abe Singer: 1917

February 2, 1917. Boston, Massachusetts. "Abe Singer, 14-year old helper at Wax Florists, 143 Tremont Street. He delivers bundles, tends the door, etc." Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


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Has no one noticed the very handsome man standing beside the boy?

143 Tremont Street

This is on Boston Common.

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The Voice Of Experience

The best job I ever had in my entire working life was driving a delivery truck for a florist. With the exception of the occasional funeral, every delivery I made was a joy and everywhere I went, people were happy to see me. Some laughed, some cried and some were stunned into silence but all of them had a positive effect on me and, tired as I most certainly was after driving the length and breadth of San Diego County each day, I always went home on a "high." If my wonderful job had paid me more than minimum wage, I'd have probably stayed there forever, but duty and reality, in the form of another job paying a dollar more an hour, called me away and I had no other choice but to answer. That job, a late shift dispensing quarters for the peep shows in a porno store, eventually proved to be my undoing, but the overall happiness I experienced in Flowerland has provided me with a lifetime of good memories to call upon when times get bad. I would be very surprised if Abe Singer wouldn't have agreed.

Note the Knickers

From the days when only men wore long pants. I guess 14 isn't quite old enough to qualify as a man sartorially yet.

Dressed Up

A lot better dressed than Hine's usual subjects. He looks good wearing a tie, a shirt with a pin collar, his Max Bros. hat, a belted jacket (even with the tear) and a pleasant demeanor. His shoes could use a shine but considering the times he's doing well. He would have been about 40 years old at the beginning of WWII, so he probably didn't have to serve, but he had to survive the Depression. This is a case for Joe Manning.

Wax Bros.

As the photo suggests, the Wax Brothers must have had a very successful business. The 1913 Transactions of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society lists them as regular cash prize award winners in the Society's seasonal flower shows, mostly for arrangements for dining tables and mantelpieces. These shows were large and popular, drawing commercial exhibitors like W. Atlee Burpee from as far as Philadelphia, and the cash prizes were pretty large for the time. In the Society's 1913 Autumn Exhibition, the Wax Brothers were awarded a $30 first prize for "Best Mantel Decoration."

Immigrants in the wax flower biz?

Aren't those "flowers" similar to the ones that Shorpy has published numerous times - showing families gathered around their tenement tables winding the wax flowers onto stems? Also weren't those pictures created by Hines? It looks like Hine is doing a classic commodity chain including the manufacture and distribution of goods. Sort of early National Geographic.

[The flowers at Wax Brothers were real. It's the owners who were Wax. - Dave]

My dream job

Delivering flowers, you're always there to cheer someone up. Who doesn't love to get flowers? And when you're not delivering, you're surrounded by natural beauty. I think I've figured out what I want to be when I "grow up." Or retire.

It's a living

Would Abe get tips? Were they good ones? Did he get to keep them? What did he do with the money? Abe looks like he was a smart cookie.

Little Shop of Horrors

Hidden Man over on the right -- spooky. And which of these pretty arrangements is Audrey?


What a nice job to have. It's clean, nice smelling, not difficult. Perfect for a 14-year-old. Out of character for Hine, isn't it?

[Thorns! And then there's Mr. Camouflage Scary Guy. - Dave]

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