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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 • UNFAIR TO BABIES, 1936

Big Wheels: 1917

Big Wheels: 1917

Washington, D.C., circa 1917. "Soterios Nicholson in auto." This "well-known Greek attorney" had a long and occasionally eventful career in Baltimore and Washington. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

A Weighty Matter

The additional spokes of the rear wheels allow these wheels to bear the additional weight of both multiple passengers and their luggage. The front axle and wheels will bear a smaller proportion of any passengers and luggage.

Put another way, if three 150 pound men and two heavy trunks are transported in the rear and on the back, suddenly you have 500 plus pound of additional load that is mostly over the rear axle.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (40/50) was another automobile that used a different number of spokes front and rear for the same reason. The longer the wheelbase the more weight the rear axle will have to support for passengers and luggage.

White Car, White House

This car is a White, of circa 1913 vintage -- a milestone year for many cars as they not only made the switch to electric lights and horns, but also did away with brass lights, radiators, etc. Not all cars made this evolutionary jump, most notably the Model T Ford, which didn't go electric till 1915 and didn't lose its brass till 1917, but the majority "got modern" in that year. 1913 also saw the beginnings of a cowl, extending over the firewall and dashboard, which afforded a bit more protection from the elements.

Hornblower!

Note the electric horn. That's quite early for this period, when most horns were still bulb-style. Presumably then it had electric lights and a starter too. A well-optioned car indeed.

Photo Op

I guess he had this picture made to impress his clients. Sitting in his expensive touring car before entering the White House to advise President Wilson about the situation in Greece.

Brakes

Very few cars had front and rear brakes in the teens. Many cars were capable of high speeds but 25 to 30 mph was about the average cruising speed so rear brakes were considered adequate. On Model T Fords, the service brake was a band inside the transmission.

Spokes person

Interesting,, the back wheels have 12 spokes , the front only 10. You would think the brakes would stress the front rims too. Or are there no front brakes?

[Probably not. - Dave]

Driver overboard!

Who knew cars used to come with life preservers?

 
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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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