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John Dempsey: 1909

John Dempsey: 1909

April 1909. Fiskeville, Rhode Island. "John Dempsey (looked 11 or 12). Said he helped only on Saturdays. Jackson Mill. He was working faithfully in the mule-spinning room, a dangerous place for boys." View full size. Almost 100 years after Lewis Hine took this photo, Joe Manning has tracked down John's son James, who is only 59, and conducted a fascinating (as usual) interview.


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John Dempsey story

This is Joe Manning, who wrote the story about John Dempsey. The link to that story, as noted below by Shorpy, has been changed. It is now:

Great-Uncle John Dempsey

I stumbled upon this photograph by pure chance and was so thrilled to have found it! The young man in the photograph is my grandfather's brother. My gramp, James Dempsey, was one of this boy's seven siblings. I, too, am a Dempsey and live in Rhode Island, just 10 to 12 minutes away from where this photo was taken in Pawtucket in 1909. I got goosebumps when I saw this photo and realized who it was. I can't wait to show it to my brothers, also Dempseys.

[Be sure to read Joe Manning's interview with his son, also named James Dempsey. - Dave]


Fiskeville's only about 10 miles from where I'm typing this now. Many of my relatives including my mother worked in the textile mills of Northern Rhode Island before they made the move south after World War II. Now many of those mills are either renovated apartment buildings or burned to the ground.


Many times I have looked at the folks in the pictures displayed on Shorpy and wondered what their lives were like. Its one thing to read an article or obituary from a newspaper, it's another to "hear" from a relative about the life these folks led. So, reading the interview with John Dempsey's son James was (for me)fascinating.

Great job.

Joe Manning's Interview

I found Joe Manning's interview fascinating. James Dempsey's story of childhood abuse, paternal neglect, dropping out of college and serving in the Army, sad. Then the turnaround, going back to school and graduating and then earning postgraduate degrees is a tribute to him and the greatness of this country. The GI Bill again, that great class equalizer, shows that with education the path to a productive life is obtainable.

Great Interiew

Joe Manning's interview with James gives tremendous insight into how life in an American Mill Town was. I enjoyed reading it.

Factory life

I can relate to working in a factory as I went into the Henry Ford Trade School in 1936 at age 14. There were rules against talking to each other, and we did real work while learning the tool and diemaking trade. We repaired things that were needed out in the factory such as valves and conveyor chains. This was before the auto plants were unionized and I was glad to get the 12 cents an hour we earned. Gave my mother, who was widowed in 1929 with 10 children, most of the money I earned.

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