SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
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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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South Water Street: 1943

South Water Street: 1943

April 1943. South Water Street Illinois Central Railroad freight terminal, Chicago. View full size. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. Another view of the big Pabst sign against the Chicago skyline.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5


Since the mid-1980's a huge effort has been made to clean building surfaces. If you go look at the original Blues Brothers movie and then compare with what you see in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, only a few years apart, the difference is staggering. If you then look at Cooley High, the filth downtown is shocking. It's regular old polution, coal fired furnaces, oil burning furnaces, autos without catalytic converters and other pollution reducers AND all those coal-fueled trains pulling into town.

Keep in mind Chicago then (and now) is a railway hub for the country, and the IC (Illinois Central) lines shown in that photo are only one of three major sets of rail lines converging on the Loop area of downtown. Don't forget Northwestern Station and Union Station less than a mile to the west, all contributing to the particulate matter in the air, depositing on the building surfaces.

Carbide and Carbon

The tower in the middle is the beautiful art-deco Carbide and Carbon Building, which would ordinarily be a dark green and gold - but for the soot, I suppose.


I've been to Chicago many many times, I don't ever recall the buildings looking so incredibly dirty.

[The air back then was full of coal soot. - Dave]

PBR for the working man

Mentioned in a great Johnny Russell song from the 1970's that says it all about the blue collar worker: "There's no place that I'd rather be than right here, with my white socks, rednecks and Blue Ribbon beer."

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Well, I'm a microbrew/handcrafted beer fan, i.e. PBR has never been on my list of favorites. But I'm intrigued by the "Blended 33 to 1" phrase. Can anyone tell me what that was all about?

[See below. - 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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