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About the Photos

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 • FLY CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

Second City Noir: 9:05

Second City Noir: 9:05

Illinois Central R.R. freight cars in South Water Street freight terminal, Chicago. April 1943. Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano. View full size. Judging by the clock, this was a five-minute time exposure.

 

Kodachrome

This is the original Kodachrome (the only one made in 4x5 and sheet film sizes) which would be ISO 10 although it was not labeled as such because they didn't have the ISO system then. Kodachrome II was ASA 25 and was released in 1961.

I love these images. I show them to people and when I say it's from 1942 their jaws drop. It just shows you how much we have regressed since then. The fact that no mass produced digital technology can come close to replicating a 79 year old technology is just sad. I'm going to try out 4x5 color printing and I honestly can't wait.

Silly Q

Can you do long exposures with digital? Is it necessary? Will you get better/higher definition like what we see here?

["Definition" doesn't have anything to do with exposure time. Resolution depends on the number of elements (pixels) in the image sensor. To shoot digital images with resolution comparable to the large-format Kodachromes and glass negatives seen here you could use a studio back like the Sinar 75H (33 megapixel sensor, image size 68 to 260 mb). Which, not coincidentally, is also the equipment used to image these very same Kodachromes and glass negatives. - Dave]

World's largest sign?

Wasn't this the world's largest neon sign at the time? I think my father said it was.

Being there

I have never seen so many beautiful photographs from the 1940s that are on your site, thank you. The clarity and colour of the images is remarkable it is just like you are standing there in person it's very surreal.

Jack Delano photos

This entire series of photos, including the non-rail, is one of the best things I've ever seen on the internet. Thankyou -all, for posting them!!

Kodachrome

Although standards for film speed varied [no ASA, no ISO but Kodak, Weston, etc] Kodachrome was what we'd think of as 8 to 10. By the sunny 16 rule that's 1/10 second at f16, so hold really still, and if it's not sunny, hold reeealllly still. It was available, as noted, in 4x5, truly awesome, up to 8x10, and in 35mm and 828. 828 was a paper-backed roll film that was 35mm wide but unperforated, so a larger picture area than a 35mm frame. Thus Kodachromes from the 40s are true treasures - it took lots of light and that meant big multiple flashes [bulbs] or long exposures. The permanence of Kodachrome is why we can see these images now, when other pre-E-6 process images have faded away. Now Kodachrome's time seems to be up, and too bad. When the CDs with digital pics have faded or no machines exist to translate them, Kodachrome images will be good enough to toss on the light table or hold up to the window and enjoy.

Pabst Sign

Pabst beer was the king on the East Coast back then, before Bud's big adverts.

Beautiful :^) A 5 minute

Beautiful :^)

A 5 minute exposure and this was taken in 1943. Maybe ISO 25 film or lower?

 
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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