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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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Playtime: 1936

Playtime: 1936

March 1936. "Children's playground, St. Louis." Medium-format nitrate negative by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

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Cycles of History

It is fascinating to see how grand cities like St. Louis and so many others have experienced the cycles of growth, stability, and then gradual decay and blight over and over again during their existence.

There must have been buildings on this lot at one time.


It's just a puddle!

Given the comments here

I humbly suggest that all playgrounds be bulldozed and the sites scattered with assorted brickbats, rusted out auto parts, burned out sofas, bones of dead animals, and pools of fetid water. There will of course be no adult supervision, so the kiddies will be perfectly free to throw the brickbats at each other, get cut by the rusty springs, use the animal bones as clubs, and of course sip the fetid water when they get thirsty. Such fun those kids will have.

Learning to bake mudpies

Show me a child who doesn't love to play in puddles and I'll show you a future adult who will spend years on a psychiatrist's couch asking why he can't find happiness.

Looks like a wonderful place to go play. The springs the boy is bouncing on look to have far more play options than moon shoes, a sled, or a pogo stick.

There are bricks all over to use as blocks. There is plenty of dough for mudpies. You can learn about physics by tossing pebbles into the puddle and watching the circles expand around the point where your pebble hit. You can learn hand-eye coordination tossing those pebbles. You can draw pictures in the mud with a stick.

And you can just plain run around wherever you want. If you fall down, the mud is soft. You won't get hurt the way you could falling on cement playgrounds designed by adults.

If I were a child I would love to have such a lot near my house. Of course I suspect my mother wouldn't love the playground bits I brought home on my clothes.

Or Newark, NJ, 2009

The inner city hasn't changed a bit. Does anyone besides me think of stuff like this when politicians are campaigning?

A Study In Squalor

Why anyone finds this photograph "full of imaginative fun" is beyond me. Perhaps if they could smell the scene as well as view it, they might not. Horrifying, and right out of the novels of Charles Dickens. Only it's not 1830s England, it's 1930s America.

I hope

the kid is up on his tetanus shots.

High Play Value

Although bleak to adult eyes, this mud patch is loaded with possibilities for the enterprising boy. The "pond" has endless possibilities as noted previously, and look at all the discarded bricks that can be used to make forts. This of course exposes my middle class upbringing, as we actually had time for such activities in the 50's. This playground looks unexploited - the kids are probably all working.

Hours of imaginative fun

This reminds me of the steep, garbage-littered embankment across the street from my childhood home. The city leveled a section, planted a swingset and called it a playground. It was more fun to play with the sticks and rocks and junk that were there before the swingset.

Having Far More Fun

than today's kids with their controlled play dates. Just look at that boy's face, full of imagination and happiness. Yeah, give me an old puddle in a dump any day to a manicured park.

Interesting euphemism

Where I live, we call that a construction debris landfill.

Not that you can't have fun in such a place. I always enjoyed them immensely as a kid, and still do.

Not so terrible

As a kid in the 50s and 60s, I remember a big puddle that formed every time it rained in front of my babysitter's house and we kids called it the "ant ocean" and had a great time playing in it. Later, a big puddle that formed in a construction site was the "lake" where we took our model ships, stuffed them with smoke bombs and firecrackers and cherry bombs and blew them up. All kinds of fun, and when the puddle dried up, it was littered with blown up ships.

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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