A fitting set of images and sentiments for today. The Boston Public Library has an incredible set of old-time winter scenes shot in and around Boston during the early 20th century. What’s piques my attention in these photographs is the fact that many of the pictured moments are so similar to those of today —from snow filled streets to a towering stack of Christmas trees— though the times are obviously vastly different. To see the packages piled high at the train depot (South Station I believe), the range of photos of people digging out from blankets of snow and the empty nighttime streets after what must have been cold hard days fill me with ideas about what life must have been like way back then.
One of the founding tenets of ACL was to give a voice to the little guys, to the under appreciated things that perform a great service everyday without any recognition. It is with this in mind that I turn your attention to one of the world’s greatest and often overlooked roadways, the General Pulaski Skyway, the world’s first “super highway.” ACL has a rich tradition of highlighting some of the tri-state’s greatest roadways (not really but it amuses me to say things like this), the Merritt Parkway comes to mind as a perennial favorite. In truth, ACL doesn’t really cover highways very often because it is a pretty random concept. It turns out that this is really only the second such post on a road, and many would argue that the Pulaski Skyway is overlooked for a reason, or a whole host of reasons.
While everyone can agree that the Merritt Parkway is a fun and scenic road to drive, the Pulaski Skyway is probably a tougher sell. I have been literally wondering about the hulking iron structure since the first time I took the three and a half mile trip through the North Jersey industrial corridor and on across the Hackensack and Passaic rivers. I fly out of Newark’s Liberty International airport often, which is a trip that requires a journey over the Pulaski Skyway. Almost every run-in with the Pulaski has led me to say to myself: “I need to do some research on this strange series of bridges and elevated highways that carries me through the swamps and across this North Jersey industrial battlefield.” I’m strange, I know.
Times have changed, but people have always loved to gawk at a car crash. The Boston Public Library has hundreds of opportunities to rubberneck wrecks from the 1930s. Some of the most interesting below. Please take note the painful lack of seat belts as displayed on the windshields. Also, check out the work wear on the bystanders. Be safe out there.
The Library of Congress never ceases to amaze me with its incredible archive of images. While going through a collection of newly digitized photographs, I came across this set from 1915 which documents a winter training maneuver of a New York National Guard unit in the Westchester County town of Peekskill, N.Y. Looking back, one could only assume that these soldiers ended up in Europe a few years later as part of the American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War.
In 1942, as part of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government acquired 70,000 acres of land in Eastern Tennessee and established a secret town called Oak Ridge. The name chosen to keep outside speculation to a minimum, because Oak Ridge served a vital role for the development of the atomic bomb. The massive complex of massive factories, administrative buildings and every other place a normal town needs to function, was developed for the sole purpose of separating uranium for the Manhattan Project. The completely planned community was designed by the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and had a population of more than 70,000 people. Due to the sensitive nature of the work at Oak Ridge, the entire town was fenced in with armed guards and the entire place — much like the Manhattan Project in general — was a secret of the highest concern.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office recently started to digitize its collection of archival photos and share them through Flickr; and this group of images from the 1940s are part of those recently released. Amazingly, some people at the DOE are ACL readers and they passed along the link to all of these great pictures, knowing my curiosity for such things.
During peacetime, ambitious officers would pursue almost any mission — no matter how dangerous — to advance in rank. One could presume that British Naval officer Robert Falcon Scott’s mission to the South Pole in the early 1900s could be classified under recognition-seeking endeavors, but there is no discounting the fact they were some of the most heroic adventures man has ever attempted.
A century ago Scott led the Terra Nova expedition, his second such attempt to be the first man to set foot on the geographical South Pole, but he was thwarted by rival Norwegian Roald Amundsen who literally made it five weeks ahead of Scott. Ultimately, Robert Falcon Scott – along with the rest of his polar party — perished on March 29th, 1912, nearly a hundred years ago to the day. These expeditions to the South Pole and the ones that followed have since become known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, which was likely a time much more punishing than it sounds.
With the centennial of Scott’s journey upon us, Esquire’s Nick Sullivan recently extolled the virtues of Scott and his Royal Navy officer’s uniform, the inspiration for the iconic American Navy Blazer. The jacket, which was originally called “Reefer No. 5″ was made by tailor Gieves & Hawkes, who supplied the Royal Navy with nearly all of their uniforms during that period. Interestingly enough the Savile Row maker still produces the classic jacket today, should you want a modern original.
The Atlantic has a photo feature that takes a look back 50 years to the events that shaped the world in 1961. It’s one of the types of photo stories that you see a lot at the end of the year, but done in a much more interesting way than normal. Amazing to see the turmoil and change that shaped the lives of millions of people in the coming decades — from Cuba to the quest for equality in America. Also of particular interest to me is the space race and all that surrounded this early time of exploration of the final frontier. See all of the images here.