Skip

Boston Rubbernecks
May 25, 2012 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Vintage Car Crash Pictures from the Leslie Jones Collection at the Boston Public Library.
posted by Confess, Fletch (48 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure that I get this...
posted by schmod at 8:25 PM on May 25, 2012


I get it. Even then, Bostonians couldn't drive.
posted by hanoixan at 8:30 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


It never ceases to amaze me how unyielding trees are.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 8:38 PM on May 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow. What a difference crumple zones made.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:41 PM on May 25, 2012


The unmentionable violence of the machine, every new car waiting for its baptism in violet blood and a scream.
posted by stbalbach at 8:48 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Way to mention the violence of the machine.
posted by ericost at 8:49 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Horse and Buggy AccidentsFranklin, Indiana Runaway Accident, May 17, 1896:
A serious runaway accident occurred in this city at 6 o'clock this afternoon to the family of Councilman Frank Crowell, in which one life was lost and another may follow. The party had been out driving in a surrey and has stopped to let Mr. Crowell out when the horse took fright at a bicycle and ran away. Mrs. Isaac Crowell, mother of Frank, was thrown out and hurt internally. Her recovery is doubtful. Mrs. Frank Crowell was dragged under the surrey and horribly mangled, thought she is not fatally hurt. Her 1 year old child was killed instantly.
Technology changes, but its innocent victims not so much.
posted by cenoxo at 8:55 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love pictures of car accidents, thanks for this!
posted by scose at 8:55 PM on May 25, 2012


Man, they're so much more disturbing in the old black and white. Anywhere there's a pile of rubble it's impossible to tell what it is. Is it just broken stuff? Is that wetness gasoline, or is it pulverized human?
posted by cmoj at 9:06 PM on May 25, 2012


Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from oh no LOOK OUT

I can't believe these photos. They look like newspaper photojournalism, but they're on 4x5 glass plate negatives.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:16 PM on May 25, 2012


Amazing. So many of these accidents that, today, someone would just walk away from going "aw, shit, my insurance is going up for sure," look from these pictures like they must have been fatal.
posted by Dasein at 9:32 PM on May 25, 2012


The single most important thing that defines a modern car: safety. These photos illustrate this pretty well. The reason nearly every car today weighs over two tons is that cars are so unbelievably dangerous it took 1.5 tons of genius to save human beings hurtling along at speed.

That reminds me: The F1 Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Charlotte 600 are this weekend. Despite the ridiculous and too-often fatal spectacle that is motorsport, these races have taught us a great deal about car safety. Those cars are lighter and safer so we can get heavier, albeit much more safe cars.
posted by basicchannel at 9:48 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Auto turns turtle on Rockville Park in Roxbury

"Auto turns turtle." Hmm. Now I need to find a way to use this phrase as often as possible...
posted by Sys Rq at 10:11 PM on May 25, 2012


Engineering has come very far in a very short time.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:18 PM on May 25, 2012


Man, many of those cars just flew apart on impact, like a Lego model dropped on the floor.
posted by LarryC at 10:32 PM on May 25, 2012


ericost: "Way to mention the violence of the machine."

Joyce seemed an apt connection with the Vertigo Years of the early 20th century, when everything sped up. But the idea is still apt today. Even computers, French historian Michèle Perrot once said "the quiet violence of the computer" had replaced the violence of the strike, or was behind it. Much of the conflict today is happening not in the bloody streets but quietly behind computer screens, in places like MeFi or Yahoo comments, anywhere people can disagree, there are small battles happening, quietly. The new violence of the machine.
posted by stbalbach at 10:52 PM on May 25, 2012


Man, many of those cars just flew apart on impact, like a Lego model dropped on the floor

That's because their bodies were just sheet metal over a wooden framework. That was the norm until the industry began changing in the early to mid-thirties.
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:04 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mentioned the violence of the machine once, but I think I got away with it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:20 PM on May 25, 2012


Seriously though, the modern car is an amazing machine.

I had an '03 Toyota Echo, the cheapest car they made at the time. For nine years it took me up and down the west coast and never needed any repair more serious than new brake pads. I didn't really even take especially good care of it.

Earlier this year I got rear-ended at about 30mph as I was stopped getting on a freeway. The back of the car was pretty much gone, but I walked away completely unhurt. It was hard not to get emotional when I went to the body shop and saw it marked "TL" (Total Loss). Of course, it wasn't really alive, but it destroyed itself it save me, exactly as it was designed to.

Long may you run, Toyota Echo.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:25 PM on May 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


cenoxo: "Technology changes, but its innocent victims not so much."

Meanwhile, I'm glad journalism has changed slightly. It's good that they don't print things like "Her recovery is doubtful" any more.
posted by koeselitz at 12:41 AM on May 26, 2012


This one is interesting; everyone in this picture seems quite pleased with themselves. Or maybe I'm reading their faces wrong, but it is a little strange, isn't it? I think people back then were a tad more morbid, which is why they were thrilled to be informed breathlessly that Mrs Isaac Crowell is probably about to die as a result of her terrible injuries.
posted by koeselitz at 12:53 AM on May 26, 2012


I love the people in the background here. I guess the thrill of appearing in a photograph - any photograph - was stronger back then.
posted by rongorongo at 4:17 AM on May 26, 2012


As W.C. Fields drawled in "The Bank Dick," "The resale value of this car is going to be nil after this trip."
posted by digsrus at 4:31 AM on May 26, 2012


Lucky fella.
posted by Jehan at 4:33 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like that some of them are different views of the same scene, The ones of the truck hanging onto a bridge by its fingernails front wheel, for instance.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:11 AM on May 26, 2012


Yeah I was T-boned in by a Jeep Cherokee while driving a Toyota Camry a couple of years ago; impact knocked my car sideways a good 20 feet. Dead center impact driver's door; the *cough* on her cell phone couldn't have hit me more accurately if she had been trying to kill me. I crawled out the passenger side door and walked away.

I only realized days later how carefully the car had folded up to save my life. Even the seat I was sitting on was part of an elaborate system that had compressed into a neat little structure to transmit the impact force to the frame of the car instead of letting the Jeep enter the safety cage. Had I been in even a much heavier 60's era car I would probably have been decapitated.
posted by localroger at 5:54 AM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Weird, they look almost like tilt shifted photos and little toys. Hard to imagine the violent reality of the scenes.
posted by pmcp at 6:00 AM on May 26, 2012


Warm. Leatherette.
posted by davebush at 6:08 AM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I look at these pix, I always look at the windshield first. And inevitably there is that radiating spiderweb of cracked glass, which tells me someone's face met with a very sudden, violent collision. Even in the photos where the damage to the car itself doesn't seem catastrophic, you see that spiderweb, and you understand the tremendous forces at work on human flesh in these accidents. I wonder how many of these "fender-benders" resulted in fatal closed head injuries?

Thank God for seatbelts and airbags.
posted by Chrischris at 6:13 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Had I been in even a much heavier 60's era car I would probably have been decapitated.

Maybe, but even the 60's era cars were a vast improvement over what was available in 1933. I t-boned someone (not my fault) going about 45 while driving a 68 Mustang. Engine was still running as the front of the car had wrapped around it. I was completely fine.

Great pictures. There is so much going on in the background of these too. Look at how the streets are made, sidewalks, signage. Not to mention dress. I love the firemen in firecoats (?) with nicely pressed cuffed slacks underneath.
posted by Big_B at 6:16 AM on May 26, 2012


There aren't any bodies in these pictures right? I can't handle that.
posted by Danila at 6:20 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've seen a lot of accidents over the years and I was amazed by the level of damage shown here. Too bad so many people where killed or injured before we adopted the technology that makes such accidents survivable today.

One thing that especially struck me as odd were the tires. Many of them looked like they had very little tread. Anyone know if this was just shoddy maintenance (it was the Depression after all) or the norm for 30s tire technology?
posted by tommasz at 6:26 AM on May 26, 2012


There aren't any bodies in these pictures right? I can't handle that.

I haven't seen any yet.
posted by Big_B at 6:28 AM on May 26, 2012


Too bad so many people where killed or injured before we adopted the technology that makes such accidents survivable today.

Back when cars started to get big and include safety features that seemed to make the cars capable of surviving bigger crashes without doing much good for the passengers, people used to scoff, "just hose it out and sell it to the next guy."
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:41 AM on May 26, 2012


Good lord! Looking at these photos makes me want to give several generations of automotive engineers a hug.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:07 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was the norm until the industry began changing in the early to mid-thirties.

Were the changes/improvements in safety a move on the industy's own part, or was it pushed by government regulations?
posted by inigo2 at 8:41 AM on May 26, 2012


Here's something else to consider with all these wrecks: they didn't start putting safety glass into vehicles until after WW2. Before then, it was plain, old window glass.
posted by crunchland at 8:57 AM on May 26, 2012


Gawd, as a vintage car lover, that hurts. That's the first notion; the second, as a human being is, "holy shit people died".

Buddy of mine has a 1931 Model A that somehow has survived all these years. Looking close at it, yeah, it's amazing any of these cars are still around.
posted by notsnot at 9:01 AM on May 26, 2012


drjimmy11: "I mentioned the violence of the machine once, but I think I got away with it."

Must be something more to this I'm not aware of.
posted by stbalbach at 11:14 AM on May 26, 2012


This was a lot more disturbing than I expected it to be.
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:33 PM on May 26, 2012


Wow, this picture shows a tanker trailer with what appears to be air actuated brakes. I didn't realise they'd mad an appearance on trucks so early.

basicchannel writes "he single most important thing that defines a modern car: safety. These photos illustrate this pretty well. The reason nearly every car today weighs over two tons is that cars are so unbelievably dangerous it took 1.5 tons of genius to save human beings hurtling along at speed."

We had this discussion a while ago but bottom line is we can make safe cars that weigh a heck of a lot less than 4000lbs.

tommasz writes "Many of them looked like they had very little tread. Anyone know if this was just shoddy maintenance (it was the Depression after all) or the norm for 30s tire technology?"

Tires were short wearing and expensive.
posted by Mitheral at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2012


I'm glad we're past wood spoke wheels. And, wow are those pictures sharp and clear!
posted by Redhush at 5:39 PM on May 26, 2012


We had this discussion a while ago but bottom line is we can make safe cars that weigh a heck of a lot less than 4000lbs.

See Brockles's comments in this thread.
posted by Dasein at 8:12 PM on May 26, 2012


I'm not surprised that all the first-responders appear to be men, but I wonder why the onlookers are so overwhelmingly male too?
posted by zeptoweasel at 8:27 PM on May 26, 2012


bottom line is we can make safe cars that weigh a heck of a lot less than 4000lbs.

Absolutely. For instance, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety picked three recent cars as being most crash-worthy:

* 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco, Curb Weight (lbs) 3620

* 2012 Hyundai Azera, Curb Weight (lbs) 3605

* 2012 Toyota Prius c, Curb Weight (lbs) 2500

None of them makes it to two tons.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on May 27, 2012


I know this is going to sound fucked up, but I was thinking that this might be like those stills they showed us in drivers ed back in high school. Remember when they would show "the film" - everyone knew it was coming.
posted by sundrop at 6:51 PM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Little trip down history lane. :P Great share. :)
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 9:44 PM on May 27, 2012


I always find it slightly astounding to think that the year with the highest number of road fatalities in the UK was 1941 with 5 times the number we get now... OK, there was a war on with blackouts and that but there would have been far less cars on the road than we have now.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:26 AM on May 28, 2012


« Older Charley Patton   |   Strawberry Rocks Forever Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post