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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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Texas Topper: 1939

Texas Topper: 1939

March 1939. San Antonio, Texas. "Man painting automobile top near market." View full size. 35mm negative by Russell Lee, Farm Security Administration.

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Backround Car

Looks like a brand new '39 Mercury behind the man. This was the year Mercury began production in Fords mid-priced range.


The gent painting his auto top reminded me of my uncle Frank Tucker. About the end of WWII, a company sold automobile paint and advertised that you could paint your own car. Uncle Frank bought one of the kits which included a special mitten for applying the paint. He did a fairly nice job of it too, but ran out of paint before he could cover the metal roof. Possibly he could have done the entire car had he worked faster so he could have gotten through before he ran out of paint.

Top material

Surface-coated fabrics were used for lower priced soft tops and for covering the center deck of closed body tops. The latter application vanished with the advent of all-steel tops in the mid-1930s. For traditional black top-decking, a rubber-faced 4 ply fabric was specified by many car makers. If the top deck was to be painted (matching the car body), pyroxylin was used. Ford, and perhaps a few other makers, offered deck material featuring a print pattern on pyroxylin.

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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