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Library of Congress on Flickr

Posted by Joshua Glenn  January 23, 2008 01:11 PM

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Recognize this scene? It's the massive fire that tore through a section of downtown Lawrence on Monday. Without captions, though, such images are difficult to identify.

That's why the Library of Congress announced, recently, that it had uploaded more than 3,000 non-copyrighted photographs to the popular online photo-sharing service Flickr. What do these images have in common? The Library of Congress wants to know more about them. The following photo of striking workers, taken some time between 1910 and 1915 in Lowell, is a perfect example:


A January 16 post on the the Library of Congress blog announces that the Library of Congress photoset on Flickr was created in order to "enhance our metadata" -- i.e., improve the information attached to the photos, for the benefit of researchers and posterity.

"We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves," the blog post explains. "For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured."


The Library of Congress's experiment seems to be bearing fruit already. I noticed today that Flickr user BronzePolgara has identified the photo above, taken circa 1940-41, and titled "Factory buildings in Lowell, Mass.?." The building in question, according to BronzePolgara, is now part of Massachusetts Mills, a mixed-income housing development located in a historic mill complex in downtown Lowell. BP even uploaded a photo of the building as it appears today:

Photo by Flickr user BronzePolgara, all rights reserved

Want to lend a hand in this cutting-edge effort? I've posted a handful of LoC photos that were supposedly taken in the Boston area, or feature Boston personalities (baseball players, in most cases). Some of these images have rudimentary caption information; others have best guesses only, indicated by the use of [brackets]. If you've got useful information about one of these images, please post it to the comments section of this Brainiac entry; using my own best judgment, I'll post the info to Flickr. Or else you can visit Flickr's Library of Congress photoset and leave your comments there.

NOTE: To see the full-size version of a photo, click on it.

Red Sox at spring training, Hot Springs, Ark., 1912
[subway (?)], [between 1910 and 1915]
Street in industrial town in Massachusetts, 1940 Dec. [or] 1941 Jan.
Clues: "School St." sign; upstairs windows: "Geo. L. Wainright Law Office"; below: "Sylvia Sweets Tea Room."
[Children with adult in the tenement district, Brockton, Massachusetts], Dec. 1940
Boston Car Strike, [between 1910 and 1915]
Young "Cy" Young between seasons, (man standing next to wagon), [ca. 1909]
Note: Photo shows baseball pitcher Irving Melrose who was known as "Young Cy" and "Cy the second."

Readers, the following photo is perhaps my favorite. Who was Eva Morrison? What's going on here? I'd love to find out.

Eva Morrison [between 1910 and 1915]

UPDATE: A reader ID'ed Morrison for me. Click here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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12 comments so far...
  1. Would the subway pic be Washington Street, in the South End? The main elevated line of that period ran from Sullivan Square to Dudley, and I think that was the first El we had, before the system was expanded in the 40s, and then killed off beginning in the 60s.

    Posted by Joe Keohane January 23, 08 01:27 PM
  1. It looks like Washington, yeah -- though when you and I were growing up, Joe, there was never that kind of hustle and bustle in that part of the South End. I used to take the train from Green Street (in Jamaica Plain) to Dover Station (South End) to visit my girlfriend, and it was deserted around there... How times change.

    Of course, the LoC has tagged this as a Boston photo because of the sign. (I assume.) But the "Boston Candy Store" wasn't necessarily in Boston. I know there was one in Philadelphia. So perhaps this is really a photo of, say, Chicago?

    Posted by Josh Glenn January 23, 08 03:40 PM
  1. The Massachusetts Street Scene photo with Syvia Sweets Tea Room was taken in Brockton, MA. This building is at the corner of School St. and Main Street, AKA The Bixby/Homebank Building.

    My father feels the photo looks to be from the 1950s.

    Posted by Janice January 27, 08 11:37 AM
  1. The Massachusetts street scene on pg. E3 of today's 1/27/08 BOSTON GLOBE that you inquired about in your "Brainiac" column is Brockton,Massachusetts. Sylvia Sweet's luncheonette was on the corner of Main Street and School Street in a very busy downtown Brockton. It was located one block from the Brockton Police Station and often supplied food for prisoners. The photo was most likely taken by recently deceased BROCKTON ENTERPRISE photojournalist Stanley Bauman. Mr. Bauman's extensive collection was donated to Stonehill College in North Easton.

    Glad to help from a proud former Brocktonian.

    Posted by Tom Monaghan January 27, 08 11:58 AM
  1. The top (and largest) of the photos with your article is without a doubt a scene from the Brockton of my youth-(I am 63 years old).
    It is the northeast corner of Main St. and School St, looking north on Main St. My mother was coincidentally named Sylvia, and she liked to get a dish of ice cream there while shopping.

    Posted by Joe Tomaselli January 27, 08 12:01 PM
  1. The Sylvia Sweet's Tea Room was in downtown Brockton at the corner of School and Main Streets in the Bixby Building. The street floor was also the location of a popular department store, McCarthy's, and a jewelry store.The upper floors contained mainly law offices. In the 70s the building was being remodeled for housing when a fire destroyed it. The building was later rebuilt following its original design. It currently contains apartments on its upper floors and commercial space on the street floor. Sylvia Sweets was a popular lunchroom, especially for people waiting for buses at the nearby bus stop

    Posted by Robert Corey January 27, 08 12:06 PM
  1. The picture of Sylvia Sweets is in Brockton MA...corner of Main St and School Street. It was there for a long time and had soda fountain and luncheon menu. The Dayos family from Brockton owned and operated it for many years.

    The original building is gone and I believe a "replica" of the building was constructed into older age apartments, without the lower floor lunch space. Attorneys , and general office space was above the original restaurant.

    Posted by Fred Mullins January 27, 08 04:02 PM
  1. The street scene pictured in your column of this week's Sunday Globe brought back two memories.
    The first was of my hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts and one of Main Street's popular lunch spots, Sylvia Sweets.
    The second was of the same picture, misidentified in the book AMERICA A CELEBRATION! by Martin Sandler.
    Thanks for the opportunity to remember.

    Posted by David Gain January 27, 08 04:03 PM
  1. That's in Brockton, at the corner of Main and School Streets. I went through that intersection just last Friday and was remembering it. In the early 1950's we used to take the bus from Hanson, shop in the wonderful Brockton downtown, and get a snack at Sylvia Sweets before taking the bus back home. How the city has changed. No more bus, no more Sylvia Sweets.

    Posted by Carolyn Galambos January 27, 08 05:47 PM
  1. The Sylvia Sweets Tea Room was a restaurant on Main Street in downtown Brockton, Mass. I don't remember the corner street, but Sylvia Sweets was in the center of the downtown area during the 1940s and probably before and later. It was owned and operated by a man whose last name was Dayos. I don't know his first name, but he lived with his wife and three (I believe) children on a street off West Elm Street on Brockton's west side. His son, Nicholas Dayos, was a friend of mine during our elementary, junior high and high school days. He was killed a few years ago in a car crash. I am 75, and he was perhaps two years older. A guy who would give you the shirt off his back, as the saying goes, if you needed it.

    Posted by John J. Mullins January 28, 08 01:12 PM
  1. Your column suggested the LOC photo captioned "Lowell, Mass. - Strikers Before Merrimack Mill" might actually be of the Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence, but it appears to indeed be the Merrimack Mill in Lowell. It may be of the strike in Lowell that followed the Bread and Roses Strike, one of several follow-up strikes in New England textile cities, whereby the gains achieved in Lawrence spread throughout the region. (fyi I worked at the National Park in Lowell, and now work at Lawrence Heritage State Park)

    Posted by Jim Beauchesne February 1, 08 08:52 PM
  1. I think the mill photo is the the now Charles River Museum in Waltham.

    Posted by Kim Hamdoun August 21, 09 08:03 AM
About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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