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Photographs of American Cities
September 29, 2007 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Photographs of American Cities from the middle of the 20th Century.
posted by jonson (37 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice. Those pix of New orleans were particularly evocative. I think I saw Blanche DuBois in one of those windows.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:50 AM on September 29, 2007


It's all so... Cuban!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:56 AM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


michigan downtowns - first two are of battle creek sometime in the 50s - it was still somewhat like that in the 60s

it's very different now

some of the smaller towns, like crystal falls, haven't changed that much
posted by pyramid termite at 10:00 AM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Great link, PT - thanks!
posted by jonson at 10:11 AM on September 29, 2007


Cool pics, good post.
posted by Autarky at 10:21 AM on September 29, 2007


Wow, I walk down this street several times a week, and I can only recognize one building besides the Capital.
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:27 AM on September 29, 2007


The cars, the clothes and the signs are what stuck out. I guess buildings are less ephemeral.

These are pics from the early days of color photography, the further we move away from the 1940s-50s the more interesting it becomes. Imagine in 70 years looking through old Flickr streams and Google streetwalk. The building will be the same but the signs, clothes, hair and cars will be foreign (no gas cars at all by then).
posted by stbalbach at 10:40 AM on September 29, 2007


Thanks for the post; and pt, that Michigan page was great!
posted by acro at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2007


Great post. It led me to this.
posted by archaic at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Those photographs help me better understand the world that my grandparents and great grandparents lived in. My grandparents lived in central Indiana from childhood in the 1930's until 1962. That is when they move to Jacksonville, FL. They now live in a home that was built in 1937.

Mrs. TPSL and I reside in a three bedroom bungalow built in 1940. Red brick, oak floors restored by yours truly, and a great fireplace and mantle. It's a house with truly American character... and it feels so good to live in it. Suburbs... are... well whatever it is the hell they are. i grew up in them... and I do not wish to bring the little TPSL up in them.

Urban Jacksonville has it's issues... most neglected American cities do. But I am very proud to live here... just down the street from my grandparents.

I think that I will have to invite them over and share these wonderful images with them.

jonson, Pyramid Termite, archaic... I thank you all.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:29 AM on September 29, 2007


I guess buildings are less ephemeral.

it's been awhile since i've been to lansing, but quite few of those buildings you see are gone, replaced by parking garages, ball parks and a museum

that lansing photograph was taken on michigan ave, probably near pennsylvania ave and sparrow hospital

actually, i was born on that corner!

that wing of the hospital was torn down decades ago, though
posted by pyramid termite at 11:29 AM on September 29, 2007


I love looking at all the old advertising. I especially love seeing buildings where the businesses have painted who they are in the windows - "George Smith, Tailor."

These pictures are really amazing - it's really odd to see cities I've visited looking so small, and some of the pictures made me want to visit the cities I haven't, just to see if they have the same sort of character visible in these images.
posted by ugf at 11:31 AM on September 29, 2007


This is a cool post. It led me to search in the Cushman collection for photos of my state of Delaware, which led me to this 1040 image of the Old Dutch House in New Castle, which I shot from almost the same spot in 2005.
posted by mmahaffie at 11:41 AM on September 29, 2007


Something in my brain doesn't want to acknowledge that the photos are 60 years old because they're in color. It's like my brain still holds onto the child belief that before 1960, the whole world was in black and white.
posted by mathowie at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's like my brain still holds onto the child belief that before 1960, the whole world was in black and white.

it was - you should have seen the trucks and wires roll out in my neighborhood when we finally got color in 1964
posted by pyramid termite at 11:57 AM on September 29, 2007


Mathowie, don't you know that the world turned color in the 1930s? It was pretty grainy color for a while, though.
posted by jonson at 12:08 PM on September 29, 2007


You are in downtown St. Louis. It is 1949.

If you want to try to get into the sold out Lawrence Welk show, go to page 6.

If you want to buy a ticket for "Burning Question: Victims of the New Sex Craze," go to page 13.

(great post. amazing photos.)
posted by Navelgazer at 12:46 PM on September 29, 2007


awesome post
posted by tiger yang at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2007


you are in downtown san diago - it is 1951 - many ships are in the harbor

you are likely to be eaten by a crew
posted by pyramid termite at 1:44 PM on September 29, 2007


They had much better signage in those days...
posted by MarshallPoe at 2:04 PM on September 29, 2007


All those years - you're looking at grandparents walking around: no idea you're gonna be lookin' at them in the year 20-07 on a what exactly?

There has to be a term for the belief that times were a little less cynical then.

thanks.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:07 PM on September 29, 2007


You are in downtown St. Louis. It is 1949. That arch is not there. That image is bogus.
posted by scottymac at 3:22 PM on September 29, 2007


Ha, wow! Harrisburg is on there... that's odd, it's such a small city. All of those photos were taken in the winter, and the city looks
identical
when it snows today.

Fun fact: the westernmost half of the bridge in the first shot (the one from the 40s) was completely destroyed by a river-glacier in the mid-90s. Where before, you could walk from downtown Harrisburg, to City Island, and then over to the West Shore, now you would fall into the toxic Susquehanna and die.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 3:25 PM on September 29, 2007


Scottymac, that particular photo is labeled 1966.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 3:26 PM on September 29, 2007


Dammit, I want to visit that NYC, where all the men are wearing hats like me.

Another great post, jonson!
posted by languagehat at 3:40 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


The shot in Tulsa is looking north on Boston from 6th Street. The tower in the distance with the white parapet looking thing is 320 Boston.

Here's a shot from the opposite direction now. Only thing is, it's from the top of what's at 3rd and Boston now.

(Yup, same architect as these buildings.)
posted by dw at 3:46 PM on September 29, 2007


Dammit, I want to visit that NYC, where all the men are wearing hats like me.

Why? We men don't have to wear hats now.

Therefore, we can dance when we want to.
posted by dw at 3:47 PM on September 29, 2007


On any older photograph I always look at the people first. And I look at the women wearing skirts and coats a uniform three inches below the knee and am reminded of my grandmother, a seamstress, saying with some disgust, "Girls just wear skirts of any old length now. There used to be a certain style to it."
posted by frobozz at 6:24 PM on September 29, 2007


I like your grandmother.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 7:35 PM on September 29, 2007


Wow, Wichita, there was once lots of life downtown! (Maybe there is again? I lived there in the 80s.)
posted by salvia at 7:45 PM on September 29, 2007


Hmmm... Indianapolis hasn't changed at all... Just the names on the stores.
posted by pjern at 8:12 PM on September 29, 2007


Those are the cities in which my grandparents went out on the town when they were my age (20). For some reason, seeing them in such vibrant color (I agree with mathowie, the cognitive dissonance of seeing color photos from the 1940s is striking) immediately makes me understand that, most likely, during these years, these people that I know solely as elderly, feeble, and mentally spacy, had experiences very similar to the ones I'm having now.

60 years from now, will my grandkids look at pictures of contemporary Chicago and think similar thoughts about me?
posted by notswedish at 9:41 PM on September 29, 2007


I've been puzzling over this picture of Atlanta for hours now. The only trace that remains of the scene is the Hurt Building, which is the little bit of white in the center of the photo. I'm pretty sure that's the Hurt Building anyways. The Kimball House is the only other clue to the picture's location. It's a bit unclear but I think it was bounded by Central Avenue and by Decatur, Wall, and Pryor Streets. The Kimball House was razed in 1959 and replaced with this. My best guess is that the picture was taken from the intersection of Wall Street and Central Avenue, looking north up Central Avenue. I'm still not sure though. That area is completely different today. Thanks for the post. Even though now my girlfriend is mad at me because I was too wrapped up thinking about this picture to come to bed with her.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 10:50 PM on September 29, 2007


The Garrick in St. Louis is indeed playing Reefer Madness, pre-irony.

There are two really neat photographs that just recently became Featured Pictures on Wikipedia:
* Mulberry Street, a photochrom from around 1900
* Piccadilly Circus, a Kodachrome slide from 1949
They're both in frighteningly full resolution if you click on the preview.
posted by dhartung at 11:57 PM on September 29, 2007


This one really threw me for a loop. Fellow New Yorkers will recognize that "fairytale castle" building with the towers and spires and the golden statue at the top as the Manhattan Municipal Building. See all the other tall buildings around it? Oh, that's right. There *aren't any* yet.

Pretty weird, no?
posted by Afroblanco at 6:57 AM on September 30, 2007


Very nice.
posted by WPW at 7:40 AM on September 30, 2007


All manner of cool things await you at skyscrapercity and skyscraperpage.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:21 PM on September 30, 2007


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