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Chestnuts Roasting: 1905

Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1905. "A chestnut vendor." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1905. "A chestnut vendor." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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American Chestnut

Any chestnut vendor in the States is likely to be selling European chestnuts because nearly all American chestnut trees were wiped out by a blight in the first half of the 20th century. Over 3 billion trees were killed by the blight.

Get yer hot nuts

They were still selling them in Baltimore in the early fifties. My favorite vendor was a man along the infamous Block, an adult entertainment center.

His song went,

Hey get yer hot nuts.
Hey get yer hot nuts.
Get 'em from the chestnut man.

Packing technique

The 45 degree packing technique interlocks the wooden crates in the low sided wagon and avoids the slipping and sliding of flat stacking. One strap was sufficient. Speed was probably under 10 mph and even less in turns.

Roasting chestnuts

How I loved to eat them back in NY as a child, they were sweet & crunchy, I've roasted them at home on a grill and they almost taste like the ones sold on the street, sweet memories.

When In Rome

Yeah, roast 'em old-school like the Romans do. I took a picture of this fellow in the Eternal City in the spring of 2006. Things change very slowly there.

Now that's a slice of life

What an unusually rich snapshot of a long gone innocuous moment.

Delicious Chestnuts

Although I've never seen a chestnut vendor in Baltimore lately, I do see them all the time in NYC. There are modern vendors who use electricity to roast them and there are many "old school" vendors who roast them over hot coals not too differently than seen here.

45 degrees

Interesting loading concept on the part of whoever packed that wagon in the background. Apparently they did not like the idea of packing things together using 90 degrees as a base angle.

Makes me wonder just how that loading strategy worked out, how far that horse was going, how many bumps he was going over, and what good that little strap across the top really did.

To be cliche about it

Main Street on the left, Wall Street on the right.

National Bank of Baltimore

Appears to be the National Bank of Baltimore in the background. Which makes this St. Paul Street, looking towards the northeast corner of St. Paul and Baltimore. There is a Citibank there now.

Notes from a hat archivist

Wow, really interesting tuck and dart placement on the crown of the chestnut vendor's cap!

And, those bowlers on the gents to the right are top-notch. I have a couple of those in the collection i work with, and they're hard as helmets, even with 100+ years age on them. You could bounce a hot chestnut off them and never feel it!

Hot Nuts

Yep! My grandfather on Mom's side worked as a chestnut vendor, possibly in NYC, after immigrating from Italy in the very early 1900's. Charcoal fire, tongs, and a loud voice.

But Ollie

Judging by the wrinkles in his pants, the fat man on the right sits down a lot, the skinny man on the left, less so.

On an open fire

I have seen photos of roasting chestnuts in old photos and have always wanted to taste one. Of course it would never taste as good as one would imagine.

What a contrast

between the two "gentlemen" striding by and the two smokers, from the shoes to the hats. Love these old photos!

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