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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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Online: 1900

Online: 1900

Circa 1900-1910. "Yard of tenement, New York City." Hung out to dry somewhere in Manhattan. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.

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Re: only whites

Whites were the first items washed, the first items hung. The women were washing the other stuff while the whites dried. The last items to be washed were usually papa's work clothes.

Whose wash is that?

Almost all of these tenements had basement areas where you could hang up stuff during inclement weather. Or dry out unmentionables. My godfather chose to set up an 8x16' model rail-road, much to the delight of us kids.

Generic Urban nostalgia

I suppose most any city boy, or girl, who's over 50, will feel a pang of nostalgia for the 'Gentrified Tenements' our grand-parents lived in. I didn't care about the hour drive past the stinking oil crackers, or the four flights of stairs my mom and dad huffed up with pounds of holiday bounty. I relished the smells and sounds of the aging but solidly constructed apartments. This was life!

Why only whites?

Does anyone know why there are only whites drying?

The aroma!

Even today, when clothes are hung outside to dry, they smell so much fresher than being confined in a dryer for 30-40 minutes with a chemical laden dryer sheet!

Risky business

I thought it was a pain hanging clothes on our back yard line that was five feet off the ground. At least I didn't have to worry about falling out of a fourth floor window while doing it.

Re: Pulley Service

I read someplace (don't remember where) that in the days of laundry lines here in NYC, there were young boys who would shinny up the poles and adjust, repair, and replace the lines. I think twenty five cents was the going rate.


My understanding is that corsets and other personal items were hung inside other things such as sheets or pillow cases. However I doubt if corsets were washed very often -- if ever.

Bad Housekeeping?

I like the messy, rebellious line of washing about 3 lines in from the top. At first, I decided to attribute it to the wind, but since everyone else's is so neat and straight, I wonder.

I do see what looks like "unmentionables" towards the top right, and despite the predominance of plain longjohns, I do see some ladies print dresses in the bottom left corner.

Out of Line

When I see these back porch clothesline photos I can't help but think of Mrs. Frobisher's squeaky pulley that concludes one of "Uncle Claude's" funniest vaudeville routines ever. W.C. Fields worked it into "It's a Gift" and the whole movie is a nonstop riot, perhaps his best. Well worth the looking into if you have never seen it.

Pulley Service

I wonder who had the job of climbing those tall poles to place / replace / rethread the pulleys.


I see a lot of men's underwear and kids' undershirts but nowhere can I find any ladies' undergarments -- corsets and such. I wonder if they aired those out to dry or if they had to be much more modest about it.

Clothespins and Community

Not only is this a community of laundry, it's a Community. I miss neighbors, and sitting on the stoop on a warm summer evening, kids playing in the street, all of it.


this isn't the French Quarter.

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