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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 • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

White Flash: 1943

White Flash: 1943

June 1943. "Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Women garage attendants at the Atlantic Refining Company." The hard part here was figuring out that crazy clamshell hood. Photo by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.

 

That Corner

HistoricAerials.com still shows those billboards on top of the Buick dealer on the northeast corner of 47th & Chestnut streets in 1950. The gasholder is on the northwest corner.

Bumper Jack

If you enlarge the photo and look just left of the left knee of the lady on the right, you can see the reflection of the photographer, Jack Delano, in the shiny car bumper as he is taking the photo.

Lost inspiration

If the writers of the "I Love Lucy" show back in the early fifties had seen this photo, there would probably have been a classic episode of Ethel Mertz and Lucy working at an auto service center. Oh well, you can always write your own.

Last Call for Cars

This would be one of only 22,055 Dodge Custom four-door sedans built in that war-shortened year (more may have been made for government use), but I'm sure it had Fluid Drive to absorb some of its 101 horsepower from a slightly enlarged flathead six.

There was an even rarer (13,000 built) example of the less expensive DeLuxe sedans with the blacked out trim here in town as late as the 70's and I've always wished I'd bought it!

Rethinking West Philly "Gas"

The gas stored in containers like these would be of the manufactured variety-- a by-product of a coal carbonization process that yielded a gas that was both toxic and heavier than air at atmospheric densities. In those days, manufactured gas consumers could and did asphyxiate themselves by simply turning on an unlit stove burner in their home. It was the toxic constituents in the gas that did them in. Save for legacy manufacturing sites subject to environmental remediation, manufactured gas has been almost totally supplanted by natural gas as piped to customers through distribution utilities. "Natural gas" as we consumers know it today comes out of the ground, is delivered through interstate pipelines, and is odorless until the mercaptan odorant is added for safety.

Pants

Love the cargo pants part of the coveralls ... although the cuffs need work.

Dress Shoes?

Looks like the ladies are wearing loafers (without socks, too). I guess workplace regulations at that time did not require steel toe work boots. My mechanic says he would never work without them; he's lost track of how many times he's dropped something on his foot....

Full Service

I remember full service back in the day when the attendant would check your oil, clean your windshield and maybe even check your tire pressure. But the young lady with the whisk broom? What's she going to do, sweep out the interior? That's really full service.

Gasoline and Gas

Another great view of a gasometer right behind them. Would not want to be there if that thing blew up!

West Philly Gas

I would suggest the image is taken from the southwest corner of Chestnut Street at Markoe Street (now called Farragut St)in West Philadelphia, looking towards the large natural gas storage tank at 47th and Chestnut. The gas tank is gone, but a BP station remains where these ladies were checkin' under the hood.

I think it's a

1942 Dodge.

[Correct! -Dave]

It looks like a

LaSalle.

[Not even close. - Dave]

 
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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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