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We Roll Our Own: 1909

We Roll Our Own: 1909

March 1909. "Widow & boy rolling papers for cigarettes in a dirty New York tenement." Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


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The Olinskys

This photo was used as an illustration in "Toilers of the Tenements," which appeared in the July 1910 issue of McClure's Magazine.

The family is identified as the Olinskys, Russian immigrants who live in a tenement on Cherry Street. They have four children. Mr. Olinsky is a button hole maker. Mrs Olinsky is paid 10 cents a thousand to roll cigarette wrappers. The boy in the photo is named Joe and helps his mother with the cigarettes.

The article also claims that Mrs. Olinsky is under observation as a possible case of tuberculosis.

Re: Pierced Ears

Seeing as my great-grandfather told all his granddaughters that pierced ears were a sign of slavery in the Torah, I'm betting that he would not have thought that pierced ears were "distinctively Jewish."


No Daughter of Mine . . .

Most of the the women and many of the men around the world may have had pierced ears in 1909, but in many of the tribal subsets of mainstream Middle America (that is, er, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant America), pierced ears were looked down upon as an "ethnic" thing that branded a woman as a member of the low-down immigrant classes, and/or Catholic. My mom, born in Kansas in 1925, was not allowed to get her ears pierced for that very reason. Although by the 1960s she sometimes regretted it, because most clip earrings hurt like hell and some of the prettiest styles required pierced ears, she never got them pierced as an adult for pretty much those same unquestioned reasons.

Rockwood Chocolates

Does anyone remember the candy bar commercials from the 1950s?

(sound of wood block percussion)

"Knock wood for Rockwood, that scrumptious chocolate.
Knock wood for Rockwood, the best that you can get."

OK, so Lorenz Hart it's not.

Pierced Ears

I've been told that in that era, pierced ears were considered distinctively Jewish.

Can anybody confirm that?


It's been a while

Since I've seen an oilcloth on a table. Sure can remember the not too enjoyable aroma that wafted off a new one for months.

Little Champion

A child's smile is so precious! That little guy looks exactly like my son and that looks like something he would also enjoy doing. When I see the photos here of children contributing to their family's upkeep I feel very proud of them.

Piercing Insight

The woman appears to have pierced ears. Did they HAVE pierced ears in 1909? It seems like such a modern adornment.

[How many nanoseconds will it be before someone points out that pierced ears go back to the time of the [random ancient culture]? - Dave]

Not Quite the Same

March 1909 began on a Monday; March 2009 began on a Sunday.

Low roller

I just know the little one on her lap is going to reach for that glass and the whole day's work will come a-tumbling down.

Obviously --

They intend to fill them with Opera Chocolate

Low Tar

Where is the tobacco?

[Not here. They're just rolling the papers. - Dave]

Same Calendar as 2009

Kind of eerie but the days and dates of the calendar on the wall match the March 2009 calendar, this is exactly 100 years ago, I wonder if it was Sunday. My mother would have been one month old, having been born in Feb. 1909.

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