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Michigan Avenue: 1962

Michigan Avenue: 1962

Chicago, Illinois, circa 1962. At 10:27 a.m. Looking north along Michigan Avenue at Adams Street, with the Chicago Art Institute on the right. View full size.

Some things never change

The spectacular "Lions of Michigan Avenue" in front of the Art Institute, placed there in 1894, are considered the best work of artist Edward Kemeys. They're not identical; the lion on the north pedestal is "on the prowl" while the one on the south pedestal is "in an attitude of defiance." I have pictures of my family in front of the south lion when our children were small. We used to eat at Bennigan's (no longer there) directly across the street, gazing (if we were lucky enough to get a window table) out at the Art Institute and the southern end of the Magnificent Mile. I took a picture looking west down Adams Street towards the Sears Tower (it has another name now but I never use it) from this very spot in late September of 2019. Then there's that lovely peek of the Wrigley Building glowing in the distance to the north -- Michigan Avenue at Wacker Drive, where the Chicago River flows beneath the DuSable Bridge.

Ferris Bueller

If you ever saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off, you could see this is the Art museum from that movie. It shows the lions at the beginning of the museum montage played to the instrumental version of "Please Please Please Let Me get what I Want" by Dream Academy. Great movie.

I am amazed

Dave. Your knowledge amazes me. Not many folks can identify a 1962 Olds.

Clues from the U.S. Flag

We featured this picture as our quiz #188 photo for the week of 14 Dec 2008. We essentially asked readers to identify the location and to tell us how they recognized it. See

We received many responses - one from regular reader Mike Dalton was worth writing to Shorpy about. Mike dated the picture to after July 4, 1960 based on the admission of Hawaii and Alaska to the Union in 1959. As Mike wrote:

Timeline referencing 50 star American flag in photo:

Alaska entered Union on January 3, 1959 - rank 49th state;

Hawai'i entered Union on August 21, 1959 - rank 50th state.

President Dwight David Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10834 on August 21,1959, regarding design and implementation of 50 star American Flag.

50 star American Flag raised officially for the first time at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland on July 4, 1960.

Since the flag on the front of the Art Institute of Chicago has 50 stars on it, the photo had to have been taken after July 4, 1960.


[The earliest this could be is late 1961 -- that's a 1962 Oldsmobile under the Prudential tower. - Dave]

Route 66

The white sign on the lamppost (in front of the lion) marks the beginning of Route 66.


It could have been taken in 1961, since the center green car is sporting a 1961 Michigan tag, which is the 59 yellow on green with a silver 1961 metal tab. Illinois had white on red plates in 1961, white on orange in 1962 - colors too similar to identify in the photo. Could also have been early 1962, but I think we’d notice both orange and red IL plates. As a kid in Chicago, I loved to see new plates appear each winter.

No squabble

I was half as tall as my sister so the hump was my pillow. I loved to hear the rush and rumble of the road through the floor and, if my dad stopped too fast, I couldn't roll off.

Backseat Squabblers

The first car I remember was the family's green and white 1959 Ford Galaxie. My sisters and I used to fight over who got to sleep in the back window ledge on the way home when we would visit relatives in South Dakota. Winner got the package-shelf perch, second place got the back seat, loser ended up on the floor on hump. Actually we traded off, but the window shelf was prized. Riding like that with a Dad that smoked, it's a wonder we survived! Yikes.


Feel the same way AJ, I can spend hours watching and analyzing every bit of these photos. Wish I had a time machine.

Old Cars

Those old heavy cars used to have a lot of decapitations. The hood was solid and heavy and in a collision would release from the hinges and go back through the passenger compartment and slice off heads. As Dave stated, today's cars have crumple zones so the hood now just crumples up on impact... Much safer.

[Cars now are generally heavier than their counterparts 50 years ago, or at least denser. A 1959 Ford and 2009 Honda Accord both tip the scales at around 3,500 pounds. My Japanese car weighs a little over 4,100 pounds. - Dave]


As for me and my family we would rather be in one these old big safe cars than the Tinkertoy cars of today.

[I'd rather be surrounded by six airbags and two crumple zones. The death rate per passenger-mile circa 1960 was pretty horrific. Those big old cars (and their passengers) did not do especially well in collisions. Roofs in the era of the wraparound windshield did a poor job of supporting the weight of the car in a rollover. - Dave]

That one modern building

I walk by that spot all the time. The modern Prudential building dominating the photo was the first big Chicago skyscraper after a 20-year Depression/WWII hiatus.

Compare to all the buildings lining Michigan Ave which date from the 1910s and 1920s. Most are still there.


That's the Prudential Building with the mast. The Palmolive (a.k.a. Playboy) building is farther north and not visible in this photo.

Car Styling

I agree with you on that. It wasn't until recently that cars went through another design revolution. The minivans in the '90s and early '00s. At least now there are some differences between them. They all had the same shape and looked exactly the same from a distance back then. Same thing with mid-sized sedans. It was only in the last year or two that the cars gained some new distinguishing styles. Nothing beats the old cars though.

Palmolive Building mast

The tall silver mast on the Palmolive Building was the WGN-TV antenna back in those days. I believe it's used by an FM station now.


Honestly, this intersection really hasn't changed much. I recognized it right away. Go a few blocks in either direction, and there will be plenty of new stuff, but not at this intersection.

On a weekend with a car show, you could probably take nearly the same picture.


This photo is best viewed while listening to The Thrashmens classic "Surfin' Bird"

Eerie how that happened to be playing here precisely when I saw this photo.

Chicago ...

"My Kind of Town," so sayeth the chairman of the board.

So much has changed...

... But one thing hasn't - THE TRAFFIC!

Car Styling

If this picture were taken today, one wouldn't see much difference in car details. Most vehicles for the past 10 years have looked about the same. But in this picture, such amazing variety in just a seven-year span of models! Somehow, uniformity makes our society poorer.

Michigan and Adams 2008

Seems to be a new high-rise next to the Art Institute.

View Larger Map

They also didn't know...

... that the little black kid with the white mother would one day be President.

The Prudential

Was the tallest building in Chicago at that time I believe. Also, my dad works there. Good view of Grant Park!

Car Spotter

Part of me wishes I was 20 years old in 1962. I love the 1957 to 1962 cars. From left to right, 1959 Ford, looks like a 1956 Plymouth grille behind it, the photographer is following a 1957 Olds, and yes that is a pink 1957 Mercury. In front of that looks like a Checker Cab. Next to the Mercury is a 1962 Oldsmobile, and behind it is a 1955 Chevrolet. Behind the 55 Chevy is a 1960 Chevrolet.

What they didn't know

Just think of all the things these drivers and pedestrians didn't know...

  • They didn't know there was going to be a band called the Beatles which would have such an impact on the culture

  • They didn't know that Vietnam would dominate the news and effect huge cultural change
  • They didn't know Kennedy would be killed within a year or so...
  • They didn't know that in 7 years the impossible would come true, men on the moon
  • They didn't know we'd become so dependent on some weird electronic device called a home computer
  • They hadn't heard of or seen: Doctor Zhivago (1965); Dr. Strangelove (1964); The Graduate (1967); A Hard Day's Night (1964); Mary Poppins (1964) etc etc etc
  • They never saw a roofed sports stadium (Astrodome 1965)

  • I love to ponder these things and try and get into the head of people in old photos... What are they thinking? What's important to them this day while they are turning left? Do they have a doctor's appointment? A first date? Cheers!


    A pink Edsel in turn lane. Wish I had one today.

    [Not quite. That's a Mercury. - Dave]

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