June 27, 1916. Springfield, Massachusetts. “Street gang, corner Margaret and Water streets — 4:30 p.m.” Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.
The boy in the middle looks over to the cameraman and says, “Yeah, sure, you can take a photo of us. I’ve been smoking these Royals for years. Want one? You don’t smoke? Yeah, good, don’t start, that’s good of you. Save your 10-cents.” The boy on the far right, hoping the audience will make the leader more vulnerable, kind-hearted, pipes up, “You guys, I’ve been buying these smokes and Uneeda Biscuits for weeks now. Haven’t I earned my checkered apple cap?” The fourth boy in the line stands akimbo and mumbles, “Would you shut up? You and Timmy’ll get your blasted hats when you grow another five inches.” The girls in the background gasp, “He said ‘blast!’” They giggle. The first boy asks, “Does holding this BB gun make my legs look shorter?” His neighbor, Timmy, skews up his face and replies, “Hell if I know. Now watch how far I can spit.”
Washington, D.C., 1922. “Social Hygiene exhibit. House of Detention — Women’s Bureau. All dishes are sterilized in order to guard against infection.” Nameplate on the equipment: FEARLESS DISHWASHER.
Woman B: Why are we doing this?
Woman A: It’s for a pamphlet they’re putting out. We’re models!
Woman B: We sure ain’t advertising a new shampoo.
Woman C: Ladies, quiet down so this gentleman can take our picture.
Woman B: What are you doing over there, anyway?
Woman C: I’m shaving a cabbage.
Woman B: You’re what?
Woman C: Shaving a cabbage.
Woman A: What are you trying to tell us?
Woman C: I’m shaving a cabbage.
Woman A: “Washing dishes used to make my hands as brittle as a poor paint job on a poll in winter, but with this new dish soap…”
Woman B: What in the samhill are your talking about?
Woman A: For the commercial.
Woman B: We’re taking a photo for a pamphlet. You should know since you told me.
Woman A: I was imagining being a spokesperson.
Woman C: Honey, they don’t have TVs to be having no commercials.
Woman A: I was talking about radio.
Woman B: You were smiling and batting your eyes, and you expect us to believe you weren’t thinking about TV commercials?
Woman A: They don’t even exist for thinking about yet!
Woman C: Woman B, would you just put your hands on that machine and look like you’re doing something?
Woman B: Fine, but I don’t get it.
Woman A: Get what?
Woman B: Just look around, the shelves are bare.
Woman A: They’re nekkid, is what they are.
Woman B: That’s what I said.
Woman C: Make your point, come on.
Woman B: There is one bowl, one tray, one knife and six plates, and they think we can’t handle cleaning these all by hand?
Woman C: I’m shaving a cabbage and you’re asking that?
This is what I do while waiting for the brownies to come out of the oven. Nothing has felt right since waking up sideways in my bed, yesterday morning.
October 1911. Lowell, Massachusetts.
“Robert Magee (smallest), 270 Suffolk Street, apparently 12 years, been working in Mule Room #1, Merrimac Mill, one year. Michael Keefe (next in size), 32 Marion Street, been at work in #1 Mule Room for eight months; apparently 13 years old. Cornelius Hurley, 298 Adams Street, been at work in #1 Mule Room for six months; about 13 or 14 probably.”
Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine