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Vegetable Men: 1908

Vegetable Men: 1908

Richmond, Virginia, circa 1908. "Sixth Street Market (typical vegetable men)." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Sixth Street

Is still an historic area, just a few blocks from the Capitol and not far from the river and Carey Street. Some of the streets down that way still have cobblestones.

Arsenic and Old Apples

This was back when fruit crops and potato fields were sprayed with substances like Paris green, lead arsenate and copper sulfate. Wash 'em good!

Are they seedless ?

We get watermelons as large as that but I doubt they are seedless. It seems the man has a smaller amount of veggies. But then maybe that's all he grows.

Big melons

Those watermelons are bigger than the typical melon sold in (U.S. anyhow) markets today, but that's a deliberate thing. Grocers have found that they can sell a whole lot more watermelon (and charge a higher price per pound) when the melons are smaller. Lots of time people want "some watermelon" but they don't necessarily want 40 pounds of it in their fridges. You can still buy (or grow yourself) big watermelons. In my opinion, most of the watermelons sold today are varieties selected for lack of seeds and size. These factors dominate and taste comes a (very) distant third. Seedless melons have been a very bad thing.

Life expectancy in 1908

Men: 49.5 years. Women: 52.8 years. Food sanitation probably had something to do with that.

[A statistical note: That's life expectancy at birth, a number that reflects the high infant mortality of the era. Life expectancy for people who survived childhood gives numbers that are quite a bit higher. - Dave]


People don't want the big ones today. They don't fit conveniently in the fridge. If you want to get ones bigger than around eight pounds, or seeded melons (which taste better), you have to grow them yourself or find a really good farmer's market.

Re: Big

The vendor's advertising agency told him putting melons closer to the camera makes them look real big. Compare the size of the cobblestones near them with those behind the wood crate.

I wonder . . .

Where Erwin thinks his veggies come from. No matter where you buy them, they all grow in dirt.

[Not necessarily -- many vegetables are grown hydroponically. If you buy fresh tomatoes, chances are at least some have come from giant dirtless greenhouses in Maine or Canada. - Dave]

Really Big

Look at the size of that corn!


Boy have our veggies changed. Are those acorn squash behind the watermelons? I used to love real watermelon. Remember the kind that was red and crumbly with tons of black seeds and FLAVOUR? Not those sickly pink watery things that you can get now.

Danger Melon

We have a procedure down here that involves one of those big green melons and a fifth of vodka. Really kicks it up a notch. Very popular at Fourth of July picnics. BAM!!

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

At first glance I thought someone crashed the cart with merchandise. What an odd way to sell food. Don't forget to wash your vegetables before cooking!


Are those watermelons in the front? They sure grew them far larger than you can get today.

The Other Street Produce

I suppose if you're naming the produce you have to include the road apples as well.

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