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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 • PROTECT HER FROM TUBERCULOSIS

Field of Mars: 1890

Field of Mars: 1890

Circa 1890s. "Campus Martius, Detroit." Down the street, a "moonlight tower" arc-lamp stanchion. Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative. View full size.

 

Astonished

Thank you Dave for that wonderful picture! Never knew anything about light masts like this one! It's definitely absolutely new experience to me! I personally was confused as I thought it looks like cell phone base station. Live long - study forever! Thank you once more!

Bagley Memorial Fountain

Detroit's first public drinking fountain was built in 1887 with money from the estate of John Judson Bagley. Recently refurbished and moved to Cadillac Square.

Bagley was a New York tobacconist who came to Detroit in 1846. He helped organize the Michigan Mutual Life Insurance Co. and the Republican Party, and served as Michigan's governor from 1872 to 1876. The four sides say:

TESTAMENTARY GIFT
FOR THE PEOPLE FROM
JOHN JUDSON BAGLEY
A.D. MDCCCLXXXVII

Moonlight Towers

Austin, Texas, went in with the moonlight tower fad and originally installed them in 1895. Growing up there, I was always told that we put them up because it was the rage in Paris. Then everyone tore theirs down, but we kept them.

One of them, in Zilker Park, gets strung up like a Christmas tree every year.

http://www.aroundaustin.com/2004/03/austin_moonligh.html

Emissions

If you want to know what it smelled like to live in those times, just visit Mackinac Island. Horses are the main transport there, and you begin to get a whiff of it a mile offshore, and it's a lot cleaner than the street in this photo.

Department of Sanitation

No wonder people thought that cars (when they came along) were "clean"!

I'm not a youngster, to say the least. My father, who grew up in NYC, told me how awful the cities were in the summer. Horse waste was only part of the problem but a big one. The "better neighborhoods" always got cleaned up but the poorer sections were last on the street cleaner's list. Manure would dry up an blow around onto people, into houses and onto laundry.

No wonder anyone who could afford it left the city in the summer months.

Oh, boy!

This is so beautiful. What a glimpse at the past! Dave, I'm from Brazil, and I'm a huge fan of your site. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing pictures! Best regards!

Progress schmogress

It's the loss of wonderfully articulated buildings like the old City Hall that make progress a dirty word. Grand details wherever you look.

Street Heat

Street car #497 looks like it has a chimney for a stove on the roof. #288 doesn't seem to have a chimney. Were some of these cars heated?

[They both have the same chimney. - Dave]

Sadly lacking bicycles and horses

Fort Street, looking southwest from Griswold


View Larger Map

Emissions

The sheer quantity of horse urine and manure is striking.

re: The writing on the well

The visible side says FOR THE PEOPLE FROM.

The four sides say:
TESTAMENTARY GIFT
FOR THE PEOPLE FROM
JOHN JUDSON BAGLEY
A.D. MDCCCLXXXVII

Austin Towers

This very tower could now be residing in Austin, TX, as 31 used towers were purchased and relocated there in 1894-95.

17 are now still in use and listed as historical sites by the State of Texas.

Brand new building and new age lighting

According to the information on the front of the building, it was completed in 1889. Brand new!

In keeping with new innovations, the "moonlight tower" was evidently quite the fad for a while. I had never heard of such a thing, but see the attached clip. I'm surprised that everybody didn't go blind from staring at the devices!

Before the automobile ruled

It's interesting to see all the various offices for different types of transportation in Detroit...except for cars. Less than halfway through the decade, Henry Ford's quadricycle would emerge from his humble backyard workshop to change all that.

Campus Martius

The Bagley fountain in the foreground is the only existing work of H.H. Richardson in Michigan. Richardson also built an armory in Detroit, but it is long gone. Today the fountain sits in a different location in Cadillac Square.
All the buildings in this photo have been demolished except for the Fort Street Presbyterian Church (spire just left of the lighting tower) The Hammond building is the large structure to the left. It was one of Detroit's first skyscrapers. The Second Empire building on the right is the old city hall. it was demolished c. 1960 to build a underground parking garage. in the last 5 years a modern office building has been built on the site.

Tower

I wonder what that tower on the left side of the street with the guy wires is for? Surely this was some time before any wireless transmissions were practical on such a scale.

[It is, as noted in the caption, a carbon-arc lamp. - Dave]

The writing on the well

What does is say on the steeple above the well in the front of the picture? Something about fortune? Or is it some latin phrase I can't decipher?

Also, there is some really beautiful architecture in this picture. Sort of looks like a Sunday to me, with everyone dressed up in their best clothes.

 
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