Check out these Child Bike Messengers from the Library of Congress

I’ve been poking around the “Free To Use” section of the Library of Congress website and it’s pretty cool. Lots of old photos, which are available for use and enjoyment, royalty free. So I started looking for bicycle-related shots for this bicycle-related site and found tons of interesting stuff. Like this…03892v

The Title reads… Curtin Hines. Western Union messenger #36. Fourteen years old. Goes to school. Works from four to eight P.M. Been with W[estern] U[nion] for six months, one month delivering for a drug store. “I learned a lot about the ‘Reservation’ while I was at the drug store and I go there some times now.” Location: Houston, Texas.

Whaaaa? Let’s filter this a bit…

Digging deeper I learn that the photographer, Lewis Wickes Hine, was instrumental in changing the child labor laws back at the 1900’s. After stints documenting arrivals at Ellis Island and working conditions in Pittsburgh, PA, Hines was tasked by the National Child Labor Committee with documenting child labor conditions around the country. He did this from 1911 to 1916, approximately.

The Masters of The Universe knew that reform was coming, and were already ignoring existing labor laws, so the risks were high for Hines. Hines had to disguise himself and snuck into factories where child labor was taking place. If he were caught he might face physical recrimination.03757v

Earle Griffith and Eddie Tahoory, working for the Dime Messenger Service. They said they never knew when they were going to get home at night. Usually work one or more nights a week, and have worked until after midnight. They said last Christmas their office had a 9 yr. old boy running errands for them, and that he made a great deal of money from tips. They make about $7 a week and more, sometimes. Said “The office is not allowed to send us into the red light district but we go when a call sends us. Not very often.” Location: [Washington (D.C.), District of Columbia].


Messenger boy working for Mackay Telegraph Company. Said fifteen years old. Exposed to Red Light dangers. Location: Waco, Texas.

Is that a pipe in his mouth? Also note stylish seat position.


Marion Davis, Messenger #21 for Bellevue Messenger Service. Fourteen years old. “Been messenger, off and on, for two years. Not supposed to go to the Reservation under sixteen years, but I do just the same. The boss don’t care and the cops don’t stop me.” Location: Houston, Texas.

Hine’s ghostly presence blows my mind.


Danville Messengers. The smallest boy, Western Union No. 5 is only ten years old, and is working as extra boy. He said he was going to be laid off as the manager told him he was too young, but an older messenger told me the reason was that the other messengers were having him put off because he cuts into their earnings. See Hine report on Va. messengers for data about the tallest boy. Location: Danville, Virginia.


Percy Neville in the heart of the Red Light district. Just come out of one of the houses with message (which see in his hand). He said gleefully “She gimme a quarter tip.” See also Hine report on Louisiana Messengers. Location: Shreveport, Louisiana.

The National Child Labor Committee collection contains more than 5,100 photographic prints and 355 glass negatives, given to the Library of Congress in 1954 by Mrs. Gertrude Folks Zimand,  chief executive of the NCLC. Here are 64 taken by Hine.


Gallery: A Bay Bumble

Bay Bumble Bike Cmping Tour1-10

The San Francisco Bay Trail, which at some point in time will circle the entire San Francisco Bay, is a great place to bumble along with friends. We did just that Thanksgiving weekend, securing a group campsite at Coyote Hills Regional Park and coming in from all Directions. Robert left El Cerrito and picked up Poppy and myself in Emeryville. As we rode south we miraculously met up with nine more friends along the 35-mile ride to the campsite; enjoying the sites, the flora and fauna, as well as the flotsam and jetsam.

The Hunqapillar was loaded to the gills. The Bay Trail is pretty flat, so I overpacked with plenty of beverages, a clarinet, and a kite to fly. Plus lots of clothes since we were going for two nights and the forecast was calling for rain Saturday. Binoculars and a bird book made finishing touches. Much emphasis was placed on enjoying the day, taking our time, and stopping a lot to look at stuff.

From my fancy lugged-steel magazine-review machine to 30-year-old lugged steel to 40-year-old coaster-brake cruisers with Wald baskets, our band’s style runs the gamut. Following the reduce, re-use, recycle mantra, I’ll just say that we’re getting high value out of our equipment. Call it dirtbag style, but I call it just being conservative. That’s us. Conservative.

Synopsis? 30-50 miles Friday with many stops for birdwatching, drinks, snacks and camaraderie. Saturday spent tooling around the south bay salt flats. Feasting like it’s Thanksgiving all over again. Sunday morning under a tarp trying to finish all the food together, dancing when the rain stops, then riding off into the sunset. Dig it.


I encourage you to click on the magnifying glass for full-size imagery. And read the captions.

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