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Motown Noir: 1910

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1910. "Campus Martius at night." A nocturnal view of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1910. "Campus Martius at night." A nocturnal view of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Just tonight my seven year old, who's crazy for "Fred and Ginger" movies, was watching "Swing Time." Fred Astaire sings "Never Gonna Dance," a song with a lovely, catchy tune paired with these ridiculously unsingable lyrics, maybe the worst love lyrics ever, including this gem:

Have I two eyes to see your two eyes,
or see myself on my toes,
Dancing on radios
for Major Edward Bowes?

"And who the heck," I asked myself, "is Major Edward Bowes?" Then I visit Shorpy, and here he is, mentioned in the comments! Where else on the web could I get that kind of service?

Another thing those Diamond Tires won't do

and also

Look closely at the lighted character second from right on that line.

Margaret Illington

Miss Illington, here starring at the Detroit Opera House, had recently been divorced from theatrical manager David Frohman. This year -- I don't know whether before or after this photo -- she married Edward Bowes, later to host "Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour" (ancestral to the Gong Show, and indirectly to such programs as "America's Got Talent").

More modern than today

At a glance, I’d have guessed this to be 1930 or 1940, not 1910. I’m amazed by the number of vehicle lights and neon signs present in a year I’d have supposed to be much more like the 19th Century still.

In opposition

In both senses of the word - Diamond and Goodrich, though Goodrich seems to have the edge here in the amount of light it sheds. A fascinating composition with lots to see. I like all the light trails wiggling in and out from the cars, I wonder how long they had to keep the shutter open?

History of Chop Suey

OTY, you got me thinking...

A quick Google yielded this:

Aside from the misspellings, the short article is very interesting. Thank you for prompting me to learn something new today!

Neither Will They Slip

I wondered why the "D" in SLIDE and SKID would need an extra lighted segment in the middle. Then I found an ad for Diamond tires in a 1913 Popular Mechanics that says,

"The Diamond Safety Tread Tire is the famous Diamond Automobile Tire adapted for motorcyle - it won't slip, won't slide, won't skip - it grips and bites the pavement - it gives you sure control in every emergency and a heaping measure of mileage."

Chop Suey

became a generic term for Chinese food. At least in black areas of town, such as Harlem, a Chinese restaurant was a "Chop Suey joint." Similarly, "gin" was a generic term for hard liquor. Writers often wrote of Bessie Smith's fondness for gin, based largely upon her use of the term in songs, but they were making assumptions. I asked Ruby Smith, her niece and touring companion, if Bessie really preferred gin. "no, no," she replied, "Bessie didn't like nothing but bad liquor, she said that anything sealed made her sick."

America's Heyday

Amazing signage.

Diamond Tires won't

I was puzzled for a moment by what Diamond Tires won't do. "Skibe"? Then it dawned on me: they alternately won't skid and don't slide!

Diamond Tires


Where's the Moon (Light Towers)?

Were the moonlight towers all gone by 1910? I looked back at the past Detroit photos that had them and they all seemed to be 1905 or earlier. Looks like they installed normal streetlights by this time.

[While they weren't on every street corner, there were several nearby [one, two, three). But they may have been removed by the time this photo was made. - Dave]

Chop Suey was popular

I have noticed that in almost all of the street scenes from various cities around the U.S. shown on Shorpy, there are always large, neon "Chop Suey" signs, sometimes several in the same picture. I see two in this photo, there may be more. One has to wonder what made early 20th century chop suey taste so good that it merited full size, expensive, lighted advertising signs. There are multitudes of recipes for it, all different, but there must have been a "type" that had strong appeal to the masses. This is a particularly beautiful picture with outstanding plays of light that could have been photographed the night my mom was born and I would love to be able to be visit this very locale at that very time. This is a picture than can inspire a million stories as one walks along the intriguing boulevard (of broken dreams?) Thank you Shorpy for once again setting my imagination on high speed.

"Chop Suey" (Edward Hopper, 1929)
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