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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Porch Mechanic: 1941

Porch Mechanic: 1941

October 1941. "Radford, Virginia. Sunset Village, Farm Security Administration housing project. Fred B. Williams from Savannah, Georgia, cleaning car distributor on the porch of his home, 803 9th Street." Medium format nitrate negative by Marion Post Wolcott. View full size.

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I'll take a stab at it

He's not changing the points, he's filing them to remove the pits and burrs. Looks like he is holding the points open with the screwdriver and I believe his right hand is holding a points file. We all know that the job's not finished until the points are polished a little with a piece of crocus cloth or a match book.

Love the pedal car

It's tucked under the porch on the left-hand side.

Shadetree mechanic

I've heard the moniker "shadetree mechanic" is an amateur who works under a tree for shade, not in a stall or building. This "porch mechanic" looks uncomfortable, bending over to work on the distributor. We used to pull the distributor to replace the points and condenser, then clamp it to a Sun distributor machine and spin it up to and see if the points bounced. The points and condenser can be replaced with the distributor in the vehicle, but setting it up on a distributor machine was the professional way. I doubt this fellow had access to such a high tech piece of equipment back then, so he must be replacing the bushings or breaker plate which does require distributor removal and disassembly. Yet, he doesn't have the tools to take it apart. I'm stumped.

Autolite Distributor

Probably Mr. Williams has removed his distributor to make it easier to install new points and condenser. This was a tough job with the distributor still installed in the car on flathead six or eight cylinder engines with an Autolite distributor. His car might have been a Chrysler product, a Hudson or a car from a number of other independent car makers, all of which used Autolite electricals.

Obvious caption


SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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