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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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The Children's Hour: 1915

The Children's Hour: 1915

Circa 1915. "The nursery" is all it says on this one. Come play with us! 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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Maybe it's just the perspective, but the tricycle on the right appears to have handlebars that are quite a bit lower than the seat. Rider would have to bend forward quite a bit to steer.

[The handlebars are articulated and can move up. - Dave]

Where the woobine twineth

I assume Numa and Mr. Peppercorn are lurking amongst the toys.

The same age

But definitely not the same circumstances as my own grandmother, who grew up never owning a single doll--and who made up that childhood loss by purchasing dozens and dozens of dolls "for me" --which I never played with.

I do find comfort in the fact that these dolls do look very played with. Lots of scruffy faces and that bisque family of dolls on the right in the back have wonderfully messy hair and even missing hair! And many changes of clothing! Well used toys are a comforting sign.

What is that thing?

There is some black thing just above her head and to the left. Any idea what it is?

[A hair ribbon tied in a bow. - Dave]

How Do We Know?

Everyone's saying the same thing: poor little rich girl with no one to play with and no one to talk to. But how do we know? Because she's alone in this nursery with all her toys? Here's the thing though; this is a formal portrait. It is a moment in time and very much a posed moment in time at that. We don't know - and we'll never know - if she has friends waiting for her on the other side of the camera, how much time she actually spends in this nursery on a day which isn't in the middle of winter. Her expression might sadness or wistfulness, or it could be "Can we get this over with so I can go out sledding with my friends?"

[As noted below, this is commercial photography. - Dave]

Enough to make a Roadshow appraiser cry

This photo is wonderful, Dave! I don't think the little girl looks lonely at all, if she has any imagination, she can just lose herself in this room. I do think that the hobby horse looks like it has real hair--look at the fetlocks. Expensive toys and pampered daughter.


This is what today's psychologists would call "projecting."

Another opinion

I tend to disagree with the notion that this little girl is lonely or sad. If we've learned anything from Shorpy, isn't it that photographic styles and compositions have varied wildly through the decades? It seems to me, that this child spent a very long time posing all her dolls just so for their special "family" photo, and that she is sitting very still with a near-smile of anticipation on her face -- lighting was not the first thing on the photographer's mind. Probably dear old Dad ... and she was probably very proud of this picture when it was developed.

[I'm not so sure about Dear Old Dad, who probably would not be snapping away with a giant 8x10 view camera. Detroit Publishing did commercial photography for the mass market and corporate clients. This is part of a series showing furniture salesrooms and department store interiors. - Dave]

Good Grief!

And every person who commented thought the same. All those toys and no one to play with. What a sad little girl. Ten years ago I was hired to decorate a master bedroom in a spanking new house. The sole child in residence, a girl, had her own huge bedroom and a huge playroom. During the child's day she spent it in the playroom, with a gate across the entrance so she couldn't get out easily. The mother spent her days in the kitchen doing who know what, anything but being joyous. She would prepare the child a cup of noodles for lunch and bring it up to her in her prison, and then leave. The child had the same look on her face as this girl.

One lucky dolly

Notice that the doll on her lap look like it's been through the wars, and the others look new, except for the wig issue. Someone's playing favorites!

Forget the toys

Check out the rug!


When I saw this photo, I was immediately reminded of J.F. Sebastian’s home in Blade Runner. I suppose it’s the combination of the strong backlighting, the hordes of dolls and the high ceiling that make them seem so similar to me.

I find it interesting that many people assume that the little girl is lonely and unhappy. I bet that if the posing had been reversed so that the girl and her dolls were facing the light from unshaded windows, most people would assume that she was a happy, gregarious child.

That tricycle on the shelf is pretty cool, I bet it was more comfortable and more stable than the ones I had as a kid oh so many years ago.

I bet

she would trade all those dolls in just for one friend to talk to.


Although it appears that she has everything a kid could ever want, it seems like she's still very lonely.

Teddy bears

Very likely that at least one of the bears is a Steiff.

What a lucky girl

to have all those dolls! And furniture for them! In the largest pony cart there are two male dolls: a Brownie from the Palmer Cox books, and the Captain from the Katzenjammer Kids comic strip. The Woody and Buzz Lightyear of 1910?

Culture & Class

The dolls and toys that surround her suggest she is from a well to do, upper class family. As does her attire, from the shiny laced shoes to the beautiful dress. But it's her general demeanor, with legs crossed and soft smile, that suggest she was a well mannered and cultured child. I would love to find out what became of her.

Compare her to images of the Cornett family in the 1960's, or even these guys, and you tend to take nurture in the nature vs nurture debate. That doesn't anwswer which kids were really happier, but the contrasts are stunning. The truth is, even before phones, autos, television etc. many people centuries past lived better than many people today, even in the most prosperous nation on earth. And that will always be the case.


I'd love to have those two Teddy Bears on the right. I'm sure Steiff has reissued both of them recently.

Toy Story

Woody and Buzz Lightyear wouldn't have a chance against this bunch. Scary!

Horror Movie

Rosemary's other baby!

"The Bad Seed"

I wonder if the photographer intentionally tried to make this as creepy as possible.

Grumble grumble

Bet her kids didn't have to hear the old story about how she only got an orange in her stocking, some Christmases (and was happy to have that!).


By Truman Capote. (Shivers)

"On second thought

maybe I'm not the right nanny for your daughter."

What's with

the narrow shades?

[Narrow windows. - Dave]

Great One.

And that's all it needs to say.

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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