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Nighttime Parking For Fifteen Cents and Parking-by-Ear

Today we have a pair of parking lot images for you to peruse, the first in Washington DC, and the second in Chicago. The lead photo shows a lot in front of a large US Government building where parking was available for 15-cents between 6 pm and midnight. In addition to the cars at the parking facility, just to the left of the sign in the sky is a dirigible. The photograph is dated 1939 – tell us what you find of interest here.

The second image below dated 1941, shows the second lot, located in Chicago, IL, filled with late-1930s to early-1940s automobiles. As seen here in earlier photographs of parking lots where vehicles were parked by attendants, it was common practice at the time to pack the cars in and locate the vehicles bumper-to-bumper of what is often referred to as parking-by-ear. Tell us what you find of interest in the images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Parking Lot Filled - 1930s Automobiles

Parking Lot 1941 Filled with Cars


22 responses to “Nighttime Parking For Fifteen Cents and Parking-by-Ear

    • I wish we had them too, Mr P. However, several years ago I was looking through a bound pre-war volume of “The San Francisco Examiner.” Despite the bumpers, the accident photos looked absolutely horrific – cars crumpled like tissue paper.

  1. A night parking sign would seem to be in an area where there would be entertainment, shopping or dining. DC has not been a center for night life in a long time. The pre war feel is enhanced with the airship, maybe it should be titled “While America Sleeps”.

    The Chicago photo is more interesting in its composition and perspective. The cars look new and clean. In those days cars had bumpers, not fascias or vinyl covers, no backup cameras or warning buzzers.

  2. Great photographs !!

    In the 1st picture, parked on the far right, is a 1939 DODGE Luxury Liner Special Sedan.

    In the 2nd picture, parked in the central row of cars, 2nd car in, is a 1940 BUICK Roadmaster Sport Coupé.

    • Late to the party, it’s a Hudson … there’s another- a ’41(?) ‘tween 2 ’40 chevys in the 2nd foto- right in the middle… there’s a bunch of ’40 Buicks all over, as well as a couple of Pontiacs… and a ‘big 41 Olds fastback. Great fotos, David

  3. While I can’t id any of the cars, they certainly had a “pointy hood” theme going. I’m also surprised how all the bumpers seem to match up pretty good. Appears all makes are here, was there a standard bumper height back then?

    • It looks like it … but I do remember seeing one car “ride up” on another’s bumper. Saw this several times. Result: locked bumpers. Anybody else remember that?

    • It looks like bumper height variation was dealt with via vertical bumper guards of which quite a few show up in the photo. It seems that those bumper guards started to disappear in the mid-fifties when 12 volt cranking showed up. Automatic transmissions that couldn’t be push started probably hastened the phase-out too.

  4. I love the first photo. What a great representation of the manufacturer’s of the time. I would love the parking sign to read : “Honest Don’s Used Cars”. I was born way too late….sigh.

  5. I can sure remember having to hook both jumper cables end-to-end to make one long one, touching the two cars bumpers together, and connecting one car’s positive post to the otherwise-inaccessible dead car’s positive post.

    As far as locked bumpers, I recall seeing it more often as interlocking ends of the bumpers when maneuvering in close quarters..

    • Dennis… I believe you have a “41 Ford or Mercury coupe in the 2nd foto, last car, last row upper right(?).

  6. Ahead of the 5th car up the first row (a white chevy) looks like it could be the rear end of a 1941 Ford . Not sure, though. Not much of the car shows except the tail lights.

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