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About the Photos

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.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Wide-Eyed: 1920

Wide-Eyed: 1920

San Francisco circa 1920. "Pierce-Arrow Model 31 touring car." Latest chapter in the Shorpy Anthology of Antique Autos. 5x7 glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Paradox Found

Here are two photos of 1930s Pierce Arrows with regular headlights. The blank and white photo shows a 1930 model, and the red car is a 1933.

Pierce Arrow Dealership

The building directly across street on Polk is the old Pierce Arrow dealership from when the neighborhood around that part of Van Ness Avenue up the street was Auto Row. Today it is a homeless shelter.

A paradox and a preference

One may still find examples of the Pierce-Arrow without the characteristic fender-mounted headlamps.

For several years early in the marque's history, Pierce-Arrows sold in their state of manufacture (New York) were required to be fitted with conventional free-standing headlamps because the NY vehicle code prohibited P-A's trademark flush lamps.

Likewise, customers who preferred a more conventional "face" on their cars could order their P-As with conventional headlamps and the manufacturer would accommodate. I am not sure when that policy ended, if indeed it did, but I have never seen a P-A from the '30s with anything but the "normal" P-A headlamps.


This photograph was taken at the corner of Geary and Polk. The building still exists and looks exactly the same.

Frog eyes

The story behind the distinctive Pierce-Arrow headlights can be found here.

I've Been Wondering

On these old touring bodies, the front seat shells seem to be integral with the body; how was the seating adjusted for different-sized drivers? Did anyone not average-sized just have to tough it out?


Those distinctive P-A headlight housings.

Door locks on a tent?

Are those little silver posts locks?

[They're latches for opening the doors. - Dave]

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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