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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Parked Tight: 1940

Parked Tight: 1940

May 1940. Parked cars in Des Moines, Iowa. View full size. 35mm nitrate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Washington D.C. parking

I worked in Washington during the early 70's and commuted to work in my personal car. The parking lot was behind the Old Post Office off of Pennsylvania Avenue. The attendants would start in the center and pack the other cars around it until the lot was filled. You can imagine what would happen if a person wanted to leave work early!

Parking lot?

I read all the theories about the parking methods used in this "parking lot", but I think it more likely to be the parking lot of a car seller. That is the place where you, also nowadays, will find cars parked like "herrings in a barrel" (like is said in Dutch).

[You don't leave hats and packages in cars for sale. It's a typical urban pay lot, familiar to anyone who lives next to a vacant patch of land in a big-city American downtown. They still park them like this today. - Dave]


The Mark of Zorro w/ Tyrone Power came out in 1940, but it wasn't released until November.

Besides, I would expect a slashing Z rather than the boxy typeface they used here. And, of course, no apparent room for 'The Mark of'....

Isn't the Internet a wondrous thing?

And for all you film buffs out there, there is some extant gag footage (there's a phrase you don't hear every day) of Ty Power doing his trademark Z, but it's referred to on the soundtrack as 'gasp', the Mark of Zanuck!

but, I digress....

Reading Material

In the white car second from the left, looks like there's a newspaper in the back. Wonder what the headline was.

[ZOR - Dave]

Bumper Cars

A couple of these are brand-new cars. The second from the left in upper row with the one chevron-shaped taillight is a 1940 Ford standard coupe (the Deluxe had two taillights). Apparently in those days the bumper was there to bump. They must have backed the cars up 'till they heard or felt contact.

Running Boards

All these cars have running boards, which means that although tightly packed, a driver could step on the adjoining car's running board as he got into his own car. It is odd that they would be parked so closely, though.

[These would have been parked by an attendant, not the owner. - Dave]


It looks like they still had about 1meter of space to open the door and go. But the way they were planning to get out of this parking must be interesting.

On the other hand it looks like a parking for office or small factory workers, so probably, as they ended work at the same hour, there was no problems with driving away.

[I think this was the view from John Vachon's hotel window. - Dave]


I wonder how the driver got out of the cars after he parked them, or how is he planning to get in. Maybe they put first the car on the right, then the next one to his left and so on. Kind of a Tetris game!

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