Category Archives: vintage photographs

Settlers on the American Frontier

pioneer home 1890 Oregon TerritoryThis is a photograph of a pioneer homestead in the Oregon Territory, taken around 1890. The west had not yet been tamed, and American settlers faced hostile Indians and outlaws. Here we can get a glimpse into the kind of hardscrabble existence that these pioneers lived.


The man on the left is holding his rifle, a necessity in the Old West. The woman and the man on the right stand near the door of their home, a ramshackle hut made from rough lumber and odds and ends of whatever they could find. It looks extremely small and cramped. There are no windows to be seen and if there were any they would have been small and likely without any glass panes. There is a little path made out of wooden planks leading to the door of the house, so that they don’t have to walk through the mud. For some reason there is a metal stove sitting at an angle outside of the house, which may be because they had just recently arrived and had not yet had time to install it.


Their prized possession, a dairy cow, is eating from a bucket next to the house. In the background you can see piles of odds and ends, including some lumber. The roof of the house seems to be a tarp. Can you imagine living through a harsh winter in a house like that? Yet the people in the picture are proudly posing next to their “mansion”. We can guess that they were proud of the freedom and self reliance that they could find on the American frontier.


This is a wonderful glimpse into a bygone part of American life.

The Iceman Cometh

blocks of ice

Two happy girls are delivering large blocks of ice.


What better way to keep cool in than with these giant blocks of ice, delivered by two smiling girls. It is 1918 and since you don’t have a refrigerator, you will need to order ice and fill your icebox or cellar with it. Every time your block of ice melts, you will need to order some more. It certainly makes you appreciate modern refrigerators, even though the old system was a lot more environmentally friendly since it avoided using the freon and other gases that make today’s refrigerators work.

In the old days, ice would be cut during the winter and then kept in a warehouse, packed in hay to insulate it to keep it from melting.


cutting ice

This is a picture of men cutting blocks of ice on the lake. The photo was taken in the 1800s but the methods had not changes much over the years. The ice harvested in this way would be the iceman’s inventory which he would deliver on a regular schedule to his customers, in much the same way that the milkman would deliver bottles. In this case, though, there is no iceman but two girls lifting the huge blocks of ice. This is because it is World War 1 and the men are off to fight, so women are filling the jobs that they traditionally did. It looks like the one on the left is especially enjoying her job.


Wartime labour shortages led to women joining the workforce in unprecedented numbers. We often think of World War 2’s Rosy the Riveter as the typical woman entering the work force during the war years. And while it is true that many women were hired to work in factories, they were also needed to work on farms, in stores and in physically demanding jobs like delivering chunks of ice.

World War 1 was the first time that women in Canada, Britain and the United States entered the paid work force outside of the home in significant numbers. After the war, many of these women had to give up their jobs when the men they had replaced returned from the war. However their experience in the workforce led to redefining the role of women and contributed to women gaining the right to vote.

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