By the early 20th century, pool halls had become hugely popular in the US and other countries, and their ubiquity was not limited to urban areas. However, a moral consensus emerged over the next several decades which associated them with gambling, indolence, smoking, alcohol abuse, and philandering, and the sentiment was strong during the 1950s when Ruohomaa likely shot these photographs in Kansas City, Missouri for Black Star Publishing.
Conversely, it’s evident from the photographer’s notes that he had a soft spot for this kind of cultural mainstay. The scene would have been relaxed, unpretentious, and somewhat disinhibited. By his own account, people were full of stories and good-humored bluster; the pool room drew the kind of people Ruohomaa resonated with and celebrated in his photos. It’s ironic, then, that when he was finally discovered using a camera, he was politely escorted from the building.Browse Images