Join 3,521 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Sending messages before texting/SMS
December 13, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Teenage bicycle messengers carried messages around American cities in the early 20th century, including red light districts. Social reformer and photographer Lewis Hine documented their lives in image and text.
posted by brianogilvie (19 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now days only business executives can afford to hire bike messengers to carry their drugs for them.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:13 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sweet fixie, Guy.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:14 AM on December 13, 2011


"He was a fine grained adolescent boy"
I don't know what that means, but it sounds swell.

I wish there were more photos.
posted by cccorlew at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


As errand boys, they carry messages, buy meats, liquors and dope for prostitutes.

First, little Timmy was selling his lunch bologna under the cafeteria table. Then, he was running cold-cuts across town to the cathouses. Little did anyone know that little Timmy would grow up to be... the Kaiser's personal butcher.

A cautionary tale for parents.
posted by griphus at 10:28 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


intriguing that they were used as couriers for the red light districts. I mean, why use a messenger boy to get your dope/drugs ? Or are the things immoral, but legal in that era ? (ie does drugs imply anything you can pick up in a store ?) Still, seems like a costly way to do it ..

It seems strange to send a telegraph to your call-girl, but I guess that is the mode of communication for the era.

There's some snark about the last picture/poster warning about the messenger kids and the modern biker/anti-biker brouhaha we've had here.
posted by k5.user at 10:29 AM on December 13, 2011


Needless to say it begs the question of what happened to these boys and how interesting it would be to hear their thoughts with the hindsight of time/age/maturity.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:50 AM on December 13, 2011


cccorlew, you're in luck - there are a bunch of sets of photos pertaining to the National Child Labor Committee online at the Library of Congress website. If you like these, you should also check out Shorpy, which also has a Lewis Hine section.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:05 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This could be the basis for a really good novel.
posted by Jode at 11:23 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


See also.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:24 AM on December 13, 2011


Cool. I did this in the late 20th century, and have no doubt I transported drugs, among other things.
posted by OmieWise at 11:47 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:51 AM on December 13, 2011


Now days only business executives can afford to hire bike messengers to carry their drugs for them.

Jon_Evil, you obviously haven't spent time in a drug-selling neighborhood. The young have always been employed to do the high-risk, high-public-profile and (relatively) low-pay dirty work of actual selling (along with junkies, of course, who are disposable as youth). The 20yos serve as middle-men; older hoods are mgmt.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2011


@Jode - This could be the basis for a really good novel.

By Horatio Alger, no doubt?
posted by Man with Lantern at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2011


Ha! A sly plant for the upcoming Joseph Gordon-Levitt film, right?
posted by mmrtnt at 12:26 PM on December 13, 2011


Already beat you to it mmrtnt, what can I say, you're too slow! TRACKSTAND! SKID! BUNNYHOP!
posted by nathancaswell at 12:27 PM on December 13, 2011



There's something so poignant about these pictures and the story being told.

Child labor is still an issue all over the world.

Really interesting.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:15 PM on December 13, 2011


Just as a tangent, I was browsing an annotated Sherlock Holmes collection and at one point, Sherlock Holmes drops something into the post and then waits for an answer, and the annotation pointed out that in some parts of London at the time, mail would be delivered something like eleven times a day.

When you read the stories, they're gripping enough that those details can just slip by, but when I read that, I went "Oh, of course... there was this massive messaging system in place because they didn't have phones or computers." - it's interesting to think how each new technology just really wiped that out.
posted by jscott at 1:21 PM on December 13, 2011


FURST!
posted by mmrtnt at 1:21 PM on December 13, 2011


As part of his Lewis Hine Project, which researched the later lives of Hines's subjects, Joe Manning has a brief entry on Willie Cheatham.
posted by craichead at 1:24 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


« Older George Takei wants Star Wars and Star Trek fans to...  |  What Reality TV Does To Girls... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments