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Whiskey Wine Brandy Gin: 1939

Whiskey Wine Brandy Gin: 1939

September 1939. "Liquor store in Gateway District, Minneapolis." 35mm negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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The antennaless car behind the Mercury is a 1939 Chevrolet that has an accessory hood ornament.

This was the last year that you could obtain a rear mounted spare tire on a Chevy until the availability of "continental kits" in the 1950s. Chevrolet discontinued these last car models without modern trunks early in the model year.

Motorola Antenna

Here's another, more elaborate version of the antenna on a '38 Plymouth in a photo taken in summer 2010.

32 Washington Avenue

The Minnesota Historical Society has Hughes Drugs at 32 Washington Avenue South. It was housed in a block of buildings which contained several addresses on the east side of Washington.

[The address here is, as we can see, 38. Stores move, or can have more than one location. - Dave]

re: Motorola

Thank you! I posted the photos on a classic car forum and someone speculated that it might be a Motorola, but I wasn't able to find anything on it myself.


The antenna:

Positively Second Street

As best as I can tell, these addresses were on the northeast side of South Second Street (a block south of the Great Northern Railway station, which was at the foot of Hennepin Avenue). Vachon, a St. Paul native, would have known the area well. In the 1950s, as scorched-earth urban renewal was on its way for the Gateway, young University of Minnesota sociology students, led by Theodore Caplow, conducted groundbreaking field research in this area on the thousands who called the Gateway's cage hotels, missions and alleys their home. This spot is now on Gateway Greenway, a one-block auto-free path.

Merc gizmo found

I finally found a match for the "gizmo" on the Mercury's roof. It is indeed a radio antenna, and here's another one on a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr. Maybe it was a Ford product. What an incredibly cool thing.

[I just knew TT would find this. Several commenters opined the gizmo was a "scratch on the negative" (which would have been black lines, not white) or part of the sign behind the car. - Dave]

Chicago Service

The regular daily train between Minneapolis and Chicago ran to a station just along here, which may be the origin of the cafeteria's name.

Chicago Service

Does the cafe feature surly waiters? Or is that called "New York service"?

"Chicago Service"

What is it?


Some signpainter was in business for a while after that job!

September 1939

It was the worst month in modern history of my country (Poland). However, nice to see such a pretty place, at the same time, but other side of the ocean. And this car, I always thaught, that body is postwar style. Not just a while before the WW II.

Drugs, trusses, rubber goods

One-stop shopping!


I wonder what they sell at this store? I'm kidding! Great photo -- I especially like seeing the film perforations.


I can see where my PV 544 got his good looks. This could be the Toad's grandfather.

Drugs, Booze ...

What! No gambling? At least you can buy a truss. Today this enterprise would be run by the Government.


Whiskey, wine, brandy, trusses, rubber goods AND cut-price drugs?

Merc gizmo

So what is this? I speculated that it was a flashy antenna, but a cursory Google search didn't come up with anything like it. Merely decorative? Whatever, I love it.


Brand spankin' new '39 Mercury sitting front and center. First year for the new marque. 1939-2011 RIP

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