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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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Philadelphia: 1910

Philadelphia: 1910

"Independence Hall at Independence Square, Philadelphia, c. 1910-1915." 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company, Library of Congress. View full size.

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Water tanks, street cleaning, etc.

Rooftop tanks are still used in many buildings more than three or four stories tall. Water from the city mains is pumped up to the roof, and gravity supplies pressure to the floors below.

When I was a kid of the 1940s and 50s, during the warm months the city would spray the streets. Street cleaning was done by a man pushing a broom along the gutters and filling two 55-gallon drums in a pushcart. The sweeper would dump these drums at various intervals along the street when they got full. A truck would tour the streets and shovel up these piles into a dump box and haul them to a landfill.

Horses were still used quite extensively delivering ice, milk, bakery goods, and produce door to door. There was also the "rag man" who collected all kinds of scrap items with a horse drawn wagon. This meant huge amounts on manure which needed to be washed into the gutters and swept up as I described above.

It was all very labor intensive.


I've been looking at these pics for the past few holidays off and noticed nobody has noticed the lack of pigeons in the cityscapes. This pic has a lot of water towers in it too. Grandma lived at Front & Fischer, from her 3rd floor window I remember seeing a water tower across the rooftops but never learned what it was for.

Probably later than 1910-15

I'm looking at what appear to be a pair of radio masts on top of the building in the center left background. That building, originally the John Wanamaker department store and erected in 1903, still stands today. (It's now a Lord & Taylor.) In the early days of commercial radio, department stores often operated their own stations.

[This is indeed circa 1910-1915. The towers are wireless masts atop Wanamakers department store. See news article below. Wireless telegraph ("Marconi") masts began to appear in large cities, especially along the East Coast, around 1910. - Dave]


Most of the buildings seen in this photograph were torn down to create Independence Mall. A damn shame if you ask me.

Street Cleaning

I grew up in Philadelphia, and street cleaning was a regular procedure until the eighties or so. I recall one truck sprayed water, and another swept.


Interesting how the pavement appears to have been recently washed, or watered down in some fashion. Was that a regular procedure in those times? On another never ceases to amaze me how much non-functional detail they put into the tops of buildings that couldn't be appreciated by anyone from far below viewing almost completely vertically. Just the style of the time it seems. Yet very fascinating to look at all these years later.

Gatchel & Manning, Engravers - Illustrators

National Treasure

Whoa! Blow up the pic. I think I see the brick hiding the 3D glasses.

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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