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Cooped Up: 1910

Cooped Up: 1910

May 1910. Seaford, Delaware. "This photo shows what was formerly a chicken coop, in which during the berry season the Arnao family live on Hitchen's farm. Seventeen children and five elders live here. Ten youngest children range in age from 3 to 13. On the day of the investigation no berries being picked on Hitchen's Farm. The family went over to the Truitt's farm to pick. Edward F. Brown, Investigator." Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


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Boys were just as happy to see their shoes packed away as soon as winter ended. Like their obligatory caps, though, their bare feet were just another way that fashion and local custom insisted on distinguishing them from their sisters. Even had their mother been sending them off to school each morning instead of off to pick berries, she'd still have sent the boys off barefoot, and only put shoes on the girls. The custom in many communities dictated that girls "needed" shoes, while boys were seen as better off without them.

Reversed Negative?

Just looking at this, something strikes me as odd: three of the kids have their left hands going up towards their faces, and the mother (we can assume she's somebody's mom, I think) has what looks to be a wedding band on her right hand. Looking at the initials, too, makes me wonder: has this image been reversed?

[On a glass negative, writing in ink (which looks white on the positive) is usually backward to the viewer if the negative is oriented correctly -- the emulsion side faces us; the glass side, which is what gets written on, faces away. When the image was exposed, the emulsion faces the lens; you have to turn it around because the image is reversed by the lens. - Dave]

Slim Pickens

You can pick you friends and you can pick your nose but you can't pick your friend's nose.

At least

it is a well built chicken coop. The roof and building looks solid. There is a pipe for a stove and even the door looks to be well made to stop drafts. If you took the chicken wire off the windows, you would never know that it was previously a chicken coop.

[Aside from the fact that the beds were wooden boxes full of straw. - Dave]

Living conditions

Where did you live that was worse than a chicken coop? I'm just curious.


I lived in bad places (one home...oy vay!) but I count myself lucky that I didn't have to share it with so many. I am going to show this to my kids...maybe they will think twice before complaining that they have to share a room and a bathroom!

Been there, done that...

I've lived in worse and been happy...

All Cooped Up

Of course these kids don't seem to be unhappy about living in an old chicken coop, since what other child's life did they have to compare it to? "Eloise at the Plaza Hotel"? I think not.

Kids in a coop like peas in a pod

They don't seem terribly unhappy about their cramped living quarters, but Mom looks like she's posing for Dorothea Lange.

Such as it is

Well, at least they had a home. The photo doesn't show us the extent of the building, but I can't imagine 22 people living there. How many outhouses would you need for that group? And what happened to those little tykes? I keep thinking that if I just keep looking at the photo, the answers will appear.


the lollipop guild.

In the Modern Day

there is something similar, it's called Section 8. I'm sure there are deserving families in the program, but usually the scene in one house is two women, several kids, and a revolving door of "boyfriends"


Boys get caps -- girls get shoes. Glad I'm a girl.


Where's Stymie and Alfalfa?

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