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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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Skinny Dippers: 1910

Skinny Dippers: 1910

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1910. "News Tribune newsboys' plunge bath." Someone make these kids a sandwich. Detroit Publishing glass negative. View full size.

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A long time ago at the Y

Oh WOW! It is hard to believe that this photo is that old. But if it is, then all those kids are long dead! I went to the YMCA for swimming lessons. But we swam naked. The pool was the same depth throughout. Girls were at one end of the pool and us boys at the other end. The only people that wore swim clothes were the teachers.

Then after the lesson all of us kids could splash around for about 10 minutes. No wet swim shorts or wet towel to have to deal with.

I was about 11 or 12. Most of us were the same age. They was only one or two kids that were starting to develop "down there." Maybe some of the girls were the same. But you could only see from the neck up. There was nothing to see. The way you knew if it was a girl is that they wore swim caps to keep their hair.

Those were the days. Would I go back to them. NO!! Why? Because I grew up with migraine headaches. I would have 3 or 4 headaches a week. sometimes I would think that I had two of them at the same time.

My parents told me that it was all in my head. Well they were right. I had to endure them, but sometimes at school I would run outside and puke in the shrubs.

Hams, Divers, and Hooligans

I really love this picture. It has an incredible timeless quality to it-- just energetic little boys having a great time. Sans period clothing (I guess the trunks are distinctive) and distinctive early-19th century hairstyles, you can really see this happening at any time. As opposed to the many serious, posed, portraits on this site, there are so many characters evident in this shot. I love the grinning ham in the middle of the pool, and the kid in the middle/back of the pool waving at the camera! The lone, overwhelmed adult probably telling the kids not to dive, and the kid in the left foreground making an exaggerated diving motion and mischievous smile either preparing to disobey or pretend that he is going to disobey.

Just another great shot on Shorpy.

My inner 5th grader is all agiggle.

The newsletter for the "Detroit Athletic Club" (where women may not have been allowed) was called "Outing?" I am not saying a word, but my inner 5th grader finds that extremely funny!


While a junior high student circa 1955, all of us boys would swim sans swimsuits in our public school's indoor pool, perhaps 60 of us during the one hour period. Naturally, we all wondered if our female counterparts did the same during their own sessions in the pool!


If my experience in boys parochial school and the Y many years ago is any guide, the bathing attire might be only for the photo. Normally we did without.

Pool party!

I don't think I've ever seen a picture with so many kids smiling and having fun on Shorpy! They usually look so serious.

All Arms and Legs

I remember when I was all arms and legs. That was in the late 1960's. Mother would tell us to go outside and play and never had to suggest it twice.

I worry when I see today's kids brought up on video games and very little other physical activity.

Not Too Skinny

It is funny reading all of the comments about how skinny these boys are. In truth, this was normal and it becomes plain to see what an overweight nation we've become. Many old images posted from the period show everyday people and most are slim in our eyes when in fact this was considered normal.

The trunks have drawstrings on the side a la "one size fits all," and it seems that is true! Even though they look strange.

Hoot Mon!

Which Scottish clan are these laddies from?

Swim time

at Neverland Ranch!

Detroit Athletic Club

From an article on the Detroit Athletic Club in the December 1888 issue of "Outing":

The bath-room caused much marvel in these parts. It is 30 by 16 feet in size. The centre of the marble-paved floor is occupied by the plunge-bath, 20 feet long and 12 feet wide. Its sides are lined with white enameled bricks, and a constant flow of water is secured from the city service-pipes.

Interesting photo

Is this a way that the newspaper had to retain the kids to work for them? sort of like perk?

That is also a tiny pool there. But hey! better than nothing eh?

PB&Js coming right up!

Some things never change, and one of those is preteen boys! They look the same and act the same as my sons and the dozens of little boys who have been here to play with them over the last 20 years. I wish I had a dime for every PB&J I have made!

Those diaper things they are wearing are kind of interesting, aren't they?

Surprise Swimmer!

If you look closely, you'll see an African-American boy in the water on his back swimming. WOW! That seems unheard of for the time.

[That's no boy. - Dave]

What's the rule?

Don't eat a month before swimming, or don't swim for a month after eating.


One adult is in the pool. One adult is trying to control the playful boys, and a third adult is hiding from the camera, in the alcove at left.

And none of the boys have shirts on, or the long wool pants you would see bathers at a beach wearing. Instead they all have strange plaid drawstring diaper-like trunks (except the fellow at the far left).

Are they not wearing the full bathing suits because they are in a pool rather than outdoors? Or because they are all children? Or because they are all males? Or maybe all three reasons.

If you said this picture was taken in 1970 instead of 1910, nobody would know the difference. That isn't true of beach photos from the same time.

Here's The Real Skinny

I notice that the only adult in this picture seems to be giving orders, but only the biggest boy's eyes are on him.

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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