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Busy Early-1950s Street Scene in Camden, New Jersey

Camden, NJ is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, PA, and was at one time a busy industrial city with a large population of mostly European immigrants who worked in the shops and factories located there. After World War II many of the factories closed, the population began to fall, and since then the City has been down-on-its-luck; today due to crime and pollution it is one of the most dangerous cities in the US.

This early-1950s photograph courtesy of contributor Benjamin Ames shows a busy three lane one-way street filled with both pre and post-war automobiles. The oldest cars in the scene date back to the 1930s and the newest appears to be the early-1950s Mercury two door sedan on the right in the center lane. Tell us what you find of interest in this image.

Camden new jersey street scene 1940s and 1950s cars

27 responses to “Busy Early-1950s Street Scene in Camden, New Jersey

  1. In ancient times, people often buried their life savings, then for whatever reason never recovered them. I have read that, when these coin hoards are discovered today, the most valuable thing about them is not the coins themselves, but the mix of what’s there. The different coins, their age and origin, tell archaeologists who was trading with whom and how strong the economy was. The coin hoards are a snapshot of the times.

    I feel the same about these street and parking lot scenes. It’s a chance to see which cars were kept as they aged, which were popular at the time, which were long gone. I note that someone has kept their prewar Packard running, for instance.

    • Camden is at best an intriguing town. Then as now, people seem to mostly pass through it on the way to somewhere else; in this case, back home to Philly. I’ve driven through on business and it can be a thrilling environment.

  2. Were cigarettes cheaper in NJ than PA? The Chevrolet making the turn in the foreground has all the options covered on the front end, bumper over riders, end guards and fog lamps. Did the owner like them or are they dealer installed post war mandatory options?

  3. In the center of the photograph, driving toward the camera, is a 1951 STUDEBAKER; and parked on the far side of the street is a 1940 PACKARD.

  4. I’m trying to figure out what the sign in the upper left means. It could be that this street is going toward PA and fairly close to a bridge. So to get cigarettes before the outrageous PA tax, this is the last store to purchase them before the bridge. But what does “Why take the loss, when Pepsi’s best” mean?

    • The sign says “why take less”, not, the loss. Pepsi was first to push a 12 oz. bottle. The rest still had 8 oz. Also noted, most, but not all cars have two piece windscreens.

      • And the Pepsi jingle on the radio was:

        Pepsi-Cola hits the spot
        12 full ounces that’s a lot
        Twice as much for a nickel too
        Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you

    • This is coming into Philly right before the bridge. People use to drive to New Jersey and by cartons of cigerettes . Sometimes the N.J. State police would watch for people doing this and follow them across the bridge and give them a fine. The Police also did this for people bying quantaties of alcohol

  5. I think the year is 1951, the Merc, Stude, Pontiac (hardtop or convertible?) and Plymouth (behind the 1946-48 model) are the newest cars. The most interesting car to me is the 1949 or 1950 Chevy station wagon further down the street. Maybe one of the first all-steel wagons or one of the last woody wagons (hard to tell)?

  6. I doubt very much there was much difference in cigarette prices those years, [ ’51 ’52 ?] as the average price was 19 cents WITH the tax !

    • When they went to 22 cents, you put a quarter in the machine and there would be 3 pennies inside the cellophane wrapper on the pack.

  7. My favorite is the 1941 Cadillac 60 Special (?) at the back of the lane on the left. A beautiful and rare car then and very desirable today. The 1951 Mercury was not the pure design the 1949s and 50s were and which was initially designed to be the new Fords for 1949/50. Ford at that time was nearly insolvent and built the far less expensive Fords we know today. (Of course everyone must know this)

  8. I believe the’51 Merc is a Pennsylvania car,as there is no front tag,and an inspection sticker on the right side of the windshield, which is where they placed them in the 50s .

  9. The Packard might be ten years old, a relic of a far earlier era, it still looks regal.
    Are there any mailboxes on posts like the one near the man crossing the street? They were on many corners of the town I lived in during the ’50s. I haven’t seen one for a long time. I still have a “tin” toy mailbox from my childhood that is a bank.

  10. Admiral Wilson Blvd. used to split into two four lane one way streets just after getting off the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and going into Camden. As previously mentioned, Camden was generally a place one would drive through to get to South Jersey from Philadelphia. It would appear that this is the street headed toward the bridge.

  11. Camden never had a postwar boom. This might be the first photo of the city showing a multitude of people that I’ve seen. It has long been a feature illustration of ‘white flight” and post industrial America. As well as grim humor. The residents of North Philadelphia joke that “at least they aren’t from Camden.”

    The photo reveals this reality, the traffic is all heading one way and out of the city. They are all passing by the last stop for cigarettes. There are no cigarettes in the other direction. The sign reminds the traveler to inventory his supply of provisions and whether they have a sufficient amount. This is no time to cut corners. Don’t cheat yourself, you have obtain the most reliable and potent cola preparation to assure you own survival.

    It’s good advice and once you get across the river it will get easier. Don’t get delayed. They’ve got the bridge wired to blow before nightfall.

    It’s an awful lot to get onto one sign but that’s the message. For sure.

  12. In the first row on the left way, way back at the very end is a gigantic prewar Hudson that appears to be eating it’s way though every car ahead if it heading to Last Stop Cigarettes. He’s not going to miss that bridge crossing.

  13. In the late ’40s or early ’50s while walking down our dirt road to the school bus stop, us kids would always pick up the cigarette packages we found laying along the roadside because frequently they had two or three pennies in them. Apparently, cigarettes cost .25 cents in the machine and the change was packaged in the cigarette pack.

    • This was before the Walt Whitman Bridge and North-South Freeway. They used to have monumental 75 mile jams coming back from the shore points on Sundays and at rush hour. The Ben Franklin Bridge opened in 26 and landed right in a neighborhood, one road in one road out.

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