Is This a Photograph of a Playground from 1900?

A grainy historical image shows children climbing on and playing on a frighteningly dangerous (by modern standards) playground of high bars and ladders at a Dallas park.

  • Published 12 September 2016

Claim

A black-and-white photograph shows children playing on frighteningly dangerous (by modern standards) playground equipment in a public park.

Origin

In September 2016, a grainy, black-and-white image began circulating on Facebook showing children playing on what appears, by modern standards, to be a very unsafe playground. The image, showing a playground featuring ladders reaching up to high parallel bars and swings, with children sitting atop and hanging from the metal bars — but no padding (or any other safety features) of any kind on or under the bars — was shared on Facebook with captions such as “Not a helicopter parent in sight”:

trinity play park meme

The image, though seemingly surreal, is a legitimate photograph of a turn-of-the-century Texas playground. It can be viewed on the web page of the Dallas Public Library with a description noting that it captures “Children playing on iron pole playground equipment at Trinity Play Park.”

According to the city’s listing of municipal parks and historical records, Trinity Play Park is no longer in existence. Historical documents archived at the Dallas Municipal Archives show that the city officially acquired the 4.5-acre park, originally located on Corinth and Cockrell street, for $8,500 in 1909.

The park served an important community function, acting as a haven for children whose parents were at work, according to the book Historic Dallas Parks by Dallas city archivist John Slate:

Some parks have important social significance, such as Trinity Play Park with its pioneering after-school program in the 1910s that cared for children whose parents worked nearby in the cotton mills. Many of the parks served as distribution sites for free milk for children, an early childhood health program put on privately by women’s groups in the city.

Trinity Play Park was renamed Fretz Park in honor of a founding city parks board member, Emil Fretz, in 1927. Fretz was key in establishing the park, which was eventually relocated to its current location on Belt Line Road in Dallas.

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