Monday, January 14, 2008
Pulled from the trash
This portrait of brickyard workers in Monongahela, Pa., is part of a collection of antique photographs that was headed for the landfill in 1986. Pat Scurfield, the editor of the old Daily-Herald newspaper tossed them in her trash can while she was cleaning out her desk and preparing the newsroom for a takeover by the Observer-Reporter of Washington, Pa.
Scurfield didn't have much of a nose for news or interest in history but had somehow managed to hold onto her job. She was best-known in the small city as author of a column, Coffee Talk, that kept track of local birthdays and anniversaries long before Saturday Night Live began to air skits of the same name. It wasn't unusual for her to send birthday wishes to someone whose obituary had appeared several months prior in the newspaper.
She allowed me to help myself to the sepia-tone images when I noticed them in her trash can before taking on a new job with the O-R as a photographer. I took them home and filed them away until I began to occasionally post old photographs on my Flickr photo/blog. The response about these shots on the Web has been overwhelming from people who have an interest in old images or are looking to fill in the gaps in their family trees. The following is a comment from a descendant of the owner of the company whose workers are shown above:
Thank you Scott for saving this image.
John Tempest who was born 30 July 1859 Coxhoe, Kelloe, Co. Durham England and died 9 Jan 1921 in Midland, Beaver Co. PA. founded Tempest Firebrick. It was one of the oldest firebrick companies in the Monongahela valley, employing fifty workers in 1897. In 1924 it had a distribution center at 601 House Bldg., Pittsburgh. According to the Charleroi Mail newspaper the buildings were dismanted the first of May 1929. At that time the site was owned by Pittsburg Coal Company. John Tempest was my great grandfather. John does not seem to be in this photo. Maggie Boradori
I especially like this photograph because it shows immigrants in tattered clothes flanked by well-dressed bosses. It also documents child labor. Look for other images from this collection to appear here in the future.