America’s Amputee Attic

The US Library of Congress harbors an intriguing assortment of historical artifacts related to limb loss.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Call # LC-B51- 57735.

The US Library of Congress is full of unexpected treasures on all sorts of subjects, and limb loss is no different. Unfortunately, a lot of this material isn’t cataloged for easy access. If you simply type “amputees” or “limb loss” into the search bar, you’ll only find a small fraction of what’s in the collection. 

It was pure chance that we came across this image, which depicts Hanger’s former world headquarters at 1312 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. The company only occupied that space from 1907 through 1911, so we know roughly when the picture was taken. We also know it was shot by a staff photographer for CM Bell, the city’s leading portrait studio in the early 20th century. Bell shot dozens of amputee portraits for Hanger catalogs and advertising brochures, and we sifted through them in hope of identifying the six men in this photo. No such luck, unfortunately.

We shared more of the LOC’s amputee-related photos and ephemera here. Click to see items such as: 

  • Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s photo of prosthetic legs at Walter Reed Army Hospital
  • A Works Progress Administration Folklore Project interview with upper-limb amputee Amos Farrell, a North Carolina field worker
  • The garish lobby card for “Mugg’s Landing,” a wildly successful post-Civil War melodrama
  • Photos of amputee children at work, including a triple-amputee newsboy hawking papers on a New York streetcorner
  • A portrait of Mexican diplomat José Lopez Uraga, who lost his left leg fighting the United States in the 1840s
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