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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 • THE NAVY NEEDS YOU IN THE WAVES

The Girl With the Crocodile Car

The Girl With the Crocodile Car

1921. "Margaret Gorman in Birmingham car." Whose reptilian body has an alligator finish. In 1921 Margaret was both the first Miss Washington, D.C., and the first Miss America. View full size. National Photo Company glass negative.

 

Worthless in Jamestown

From the 1922 Motor Age Magazine

"Promoters of No-Axel Motors Company Indicted for Fraud Federal Grand Jury Alleges Misuse of Mails in Sale of $300,000 of Stock Said to be Worthless

"Washington, Aug. 12—Charged with having sold worthless stock to the amount of more than $300,000 to Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia investors, through misrepresentation, 18 officials of the Birmingham No-Axel Motors Corporation were indicted by the federal grand jury, on a specific charge of violation of federal statute No. 215, involving misuse of the United States mails.

"Those indicted are: George B. Mechem Sr., George B. Mechem Jr., Ida M. Mechem, Vance W. Mechem, Samuel A. Carson, Thomas E. Dicken, Harlan Van Wyck, C. A. Rye, Martin Linquist, Alexander J. Guttman, and others. The indictment against the company officials returned as a result or more than ten months' Investigation by the Post Office officials who charge that agents of the company sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock on fictitious holdings and on promises which, according to the government's case, 'the said Birmingham Motors knew never would be complied with.'"

Two pictures of the cars on demonstration runs are below.

Yo baby

Whe' u headin'?

Duplex Body

This early precursor to the hardtop has a fixed roof like a closed-body car but with the sides open and unobstructed like a touring car. The result is somewhat sportier than the typical closed car of the time while avoiding many of the inevitable rattles and squeaks that touring cars were prone to. If Studebaker and some of the other players who were experimenting with this body style at the time had splurged on roll-up windows, it might have taken off like the "hardtop convertible" did in the late 1940s.

So Many Identical Alligators.

Amazingly identical in their skin patterns ... so much so that it must be a faux skin product... just in such large expanses, the deception is unmasked as a small thing like a purse of satchel would not make the repeat so obvious.

["Must be"? Read the comments below. - Dave]

Endangered Species

I am sure Crocs are still on the endangered list. I don't know if they were then, but no matter, it is obviously a paint job. However with that smile she can wear or drive whatever she pleases.

[Not paint. See below. - Dave]

Birmingham Motors

In addition to the reptilian body, Birmingham cars were unique in the use of a swing axle which they advertised as "No-Axle".


Washington Post, Sep 25, 1921:

The Birmingham Motors demonstrated to about 15,000 people of Washington Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the ability of their cars to withstand the most severe rough road tests ever seen here. The cars went over roads built of logs from 4 to 8 inches in height at from 15 to 35 miles per hour. This feat did not seem to affect their cars, although the sedan has traveled over similar tests more than 14,000 miles.

Birmingham Motors offers an attractive challenge of $5,000 for any make of car to follow the Birmingham over the roads which they will construct.

All of the three models are exceptionally attractive, finished with Dupont Fabrikold Fabrikoid in place of paint. The company is now ready to start quantity production in their first plant at Falconer, N.Y., and will start delivering cars in this city in the near future.

[Fascinating as usual. I wonder if that should be "Fabrikoid." - Dave]

Some history on the short rise and fall of Birmingham Motors. Only about 50 cars were ever built: none are believed to have survived.

Extra Texture

Why does the sky look like my living room wallpaper?

[Why does your living room wallpaper look like the sky? - Dave]

Changing Standards

Just imagine a young woman with a reptilian body winning a beauty pageant today - simply wouldn't happen.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
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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