Kevin Boyle

In Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons, Kevin Boyle and Victoria Getis focus on the human component of industrial life through images of working people and the spaces they inhabited. This innovative collection of photographs… provides an invaluable resource for historians and teachers of urban America.”

— Victoria Wolcott, H-Net

Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons

Images of the Working Class in Detroit, 1900-1930

Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons tells the story of the working people of Detroit who, in the first three decades of the twentieth century, made Detroit into one of the world’s greatest industrial cities. Ninety previously unpublished photographs offer glimpses of a life that has all but disappeared-from the boarding houses where immigrants slept between shifts, to the backyards and empty lots where children played and the kitchens where women labored. The photos also show workers on the job-in auto factories and at construction sites, on the highest peaks of the Ambassador Bridge and in the tunnel beneath the Detroit River. Put together, these small stories, the details of ordinary life, tell the history of a remarkable city. And despite the often bleak and harsh life portrayed in the pictures, Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons is about the victories of the city’s working people.

Coupling textual analyses with photographs, Boyle and Getis provide both a literary and visual rendering of sweeping industrial, social, cultural and political transformations.”

At a time when many of the new generation of citizens view unions as inefficient and unnecessary, we need striking reminders of why workers organized…. Yet we also need pedagogical tools for conceptualizing the struggles and victories of everyday life…. By vividly illuminating the harsh conditions of working-class life and highlighting the communities that workers constructed despite them, Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons is a credit to both causes.”

— Andrew Diamond, International Labor and Working Class History

Boyle and Getis have succeeded in … exploring the everyday life of ordinary people, in all their glory.”

Indiana Magazine of History

A splendid use of photographs and appropriate commentary to illuminate the lives of ordinary workers in Detroit in the first three decades of the twentieth century. The homes, the jobs, the roles in the community of which the workers were a part are brought to life in this volume.

— Sidney Fine, University of Michigan