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NEW FROM THE VINTAGRAPH VAULTS • BRITISH COLUMBIA VACATION-LAND: 1950s

Dave: 1910

Dave: 1910

Dave, a young "pusher" at Bessie Mine. Jefferson County, Alabama. December 1910. View full size. Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine.

 

Bleach Room Boys: 1910

Bleach Room Boys: 1910

Bleach room boys, Pacific Mills. Lawrence, Massachusetts. December 1910. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

 

Shorpy and His Friends

Shorpy and His Friends

December 1910. "Shorpy Higginbotham, an oiler on the tipple at Bessie Mine" -- near Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. Entire uncropped image.

 

Shorpy at Work: 1910

Shorpy at Work: 1910

"A greaser in a Coal Mine. Location: Bessie Mine, Alabama." November 1910. View full size image or view Shorpy even bigger (cropped). This is, as far as we can tell, the first of only four photographs Lewis Wickes Hine took of Shorpy on his visit to the Bessie Mine late in 1910. (The others are here and here and here.) Almost 100 years after being taken, they retain a strange and startling immediacy even though their subject is almost certainly dead. Who were you, Shorpy Higginbotham, and whatever became of you?

What became of Shorpy? Here's a summary of what we know, based on research using census and death records, contributed by visitors to this site: Shorpy -- Henry Sharpe Higginbotham -- was born Nov. 23, 1896, in Jefferson County, Alabama, to Phelix Milton Higginbotham and the former Mary Jane Graham. He served in the armed forces during World War I. On Nov. 19, 1927, he married Flora Belle Quinton. On Jan. 25 of the following year he died in a mine accident at the age of 31, crushed by a rock, and was buried in Jefferson County. He became a father, posthumously, when his widow bore his child in the summer of 1928. The writer Joe Manning says he has spoken with Shorpy's son but that he didn't want to talk. You can read more about Joe's report on his Web site.
 

Ewen Breaker: 1911

Ewen Breaker: 1911

Noon hour in the Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co., South Pittston. January 1911. Spooky full image. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

"Breaker boys," or slate pickers, sat astride the breaker chutes, through which the coal roared, and picked out slate and other debris by hand. Boys as young as 8, working ten-hour days, began their coal careers in the breakers. They were paid less than the adults who performed the same work and faced the hazard of hand injuries or even falling into the chutes. Some breaker boys were the sons of miners who had been killed or disabled, often the only remaining source of income for their families. In 1900, boys accounted for one-sixth of the anthracite coal work force. Read a firsthand account of the breaker boys' work.

 

Barnesville Mine: 1908

Barnesville Mine: 1908

"Drivers and Trappers Going Home." Barnesville Mine, Fairmont, West Virginia. October 1908. View full size. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. Note oil-wick lamps on the hats, and lunch pails. Trappers were boys who opened trapdoors to let coal cars pass and then closed them again to maintain proper airflow in the tunnel ventilation system.

One trapper's description of the job, which paid about $1.60 a day:

Trappers were responsible for opening and closing the underground ventilation doors. In those old mines, they had a system of doors between sections to direct the flow of air. Air was supposed to go up the main haulage and back to the fan. So a trapper sat all day by his door with an oil lamp on his cap. There was a "manhole" - a shelter hole in the wall by the track. The motorman would blink his light at me, and I'd throw the switch and open the door for him. Then, I'd jump into the manway until he was past, and run out and close the door. A trip would come along about every hour. Was I bored or lonely? Well, it was my job.

 

Carnival Ride From Hell: 1911

Carnival Ride From Hell: 1911

A view of the Pennsylvania Breaker. “Breaker Boys” remove rocks and other debris from the coal by hand as it passes beneath them. The dust is so dense at times as to obscure the view and penetrates the utmost recesses of the boys’ lungs. South Pittston, Pennsylvania. January 1911. View full size. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

From the 1906 book The Bitter Cry of the Children by labor reformer John Spargo:

Work in the coal breakers is exceedingly hard and dangerous. Crouched over the chutes, the boys sit hour after hour, picking out the pieces of slate and other refuse from the coal as it rushes past to the washers. From the cramped position they have to assume, most of them become more or less deformed and

 

Shortchanger: 1915

Shortchanger: 1915

A 6-year-old newsie who tried to "short change" me. Los Angeles, California. May 1915. View full size. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

 

Knoxville Messengers: 1910

Knoxville Messengers: 1910

December 1910. "Postal Telegraph Messengers, Knoxville, Tennessee." Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

 

Livers the Newsie: 1910

Livers the Newsie: 1910

"Livers," a young newsie. St. Louis, Missouri. May 1910. View full size.

 

Fruit Market: 1908

Fruit Market: 1908

Indianapolis Market. August 1908. Wit., E. N. Clopper. People shopped at open-air markets like this for fresh produce before the advent of the supermarket, which was basically a self-service farmers market, butcher shop and dry goods store all under one roof. View full size.

 

Not Pictured: Hector DuBois

Not Pictured: Hector DuBois

Group in front of Indian Orchard Mfg. Co. Everyone in photo was working there. Boy not photographed: Hector Dubois, 24 Water St., doffer who crushed finger in pump. Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. September 1911. View full size.

 

ADT Messengers: 1908

ADT Messengers: 1908

A. D. T. Messengers, August 1908. Location: Indianapolis, Indiana. (ADT, or American District Telegraph, was the forerunner of today's home security company.) Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

 

Newsies and Dog: 1909

Newsies and Dog: 1909

Sunday 5 a.m. Newsies starting out. Boston, Massachusetts. October 1909. View full size. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

 

Birmingham Messenger: 1914

Birmingham Messenger: 1914

October 1914. Birmingham, Alabama. "A typical Birmingham messenger." Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

 
 
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