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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • STAY ONE JUMP AHEAD OF TROUBLE, 1945

Good Roads: 1914

Good Roads: 1914

New Jersey circa 1914. "Good Roads -- a scraper." One manifestation of the "Good Roads" movement, started by bicyclists in the late 19th century and carried on by advocates of the automobile. G.G. Bain Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Fresno Scraper

The Fresno Scraper was an iron improvement on the wood scraper developed by James Porteous in 1883 and built by Fresno Agricultural Works. They were so popular that the term "Fresno" was synonymous with scraper. The horse pulled the metal scraper and a strong fellow followed along behind to guide it with a wood handle called a Johnson Bar. He could also be an unlucky fellow as the scoop could catch and the Johnson bar could whack you on the jaw, or worse, on your Johnson! My grandfather leveled a lot of ground with a Fresno and I am happy to say he fathered five children despite the Johnson bar. :)

Electric interurban

I'd take odds that the citizens of New Jersey would love to have the Interurban line back with $4 gas and the crowded roadways of 2011.

The interurban

After the bicycle, before the automobile, for a brief time there was the interurban electric railway. Paralleling the muddy road is a single-track rail line, lined with wooden poles that support the electric wire to power the interurban cars. After the road is improved, the line will eventually be abandoned.

100 years later

and here in rural Colorado this is what the road to my house still looks like.

Innocents At Home

I remember from The Innocents Abroad that when Mark Twain visited Paris, he was extremely impressed with their paved roads (they were covered in the finest "macadam," I think his phrase was). His visit was in 1868 or so. By 1914, there would have been plenty of good roads in the United States, I believe. This just happened not to be one of them.

Farm Scraper

We had one like it on the farm still made of wood but we put steel wheels from a seeder on it and pulled it with the tractor to maintain our road.

Not exactly smooth sailing

And people today complain about the occasional pothole. Imagine riding down a road like that for hours in a turn-of-the-century automobile. You would have a mouth full of loose teeth.

Let's hear it for the cyclists!

The Good Roads program was started by bicyclists so let's give them credit for our good roads and stop telling them to get off the street.

Good road?

I'd call that a hard road -- a hard road to make!

Is this the infancy of the DOT perhaps?

Fresno Scraper

"Easily made from the simplest materials". The planks go over the logs (lifted aside to reveal the construction), and the driver stands on top with reins in hand to urge the team forward. A common, and frequent, maintenance task to smooth down the ruts that form on a dirt road.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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