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1930s Streamlined Automobiles in Chicago and Philadelphia Street Scenes

Today we have a pair of interesting street scenes, the first of which was taken from high above this busy intersection in Chicago during the late-1930s. Heavy one-way traffic on both thoroughfares has apparently slowed down the traffic to a crawl. The oldest automobiles in the view date back to about 1930 to ’31 and the latest appear to be 1939 models. In the lower far left of the photo is a bus-like vehicle with styling very similar to that of the Brooks Stevens designed Western Clippers.

The City park in the upper left-hand corner looks familiar, and if my memory serves correctly it was laid out by a prominent landscape architect; it and the statue in the lower right-hand corner should enable viewers to identify the location of this scene. The photograph is courtesy of the City of Chicago.

Next we head east to a circa 1936 to ’37 view below of traffic and sidewalks lined with Christmas shoppers in the City of Philladelphia. All of the cars in the view with the exception of one in the lower far-right of the photograph appear to be late model vehicles. The image is courtesy of Old Images of Philladelphia.

19 responses to “1930s Streamlined Automobiles in Chicago and Philadelphia Street Scenes

  1. In the 1st photograph, turning right and appearing stopped at the cross-walk, is a 1939 BUICK with dual side-mounted tires.

  2. There is a 38 Buick with side mounts on the other side of the traffic island. Is that a 1940 Buick diagonally behind the streamlined bus?

  3. And we thought traffic grid lock was a new thing. Great picture and is that a 1932 DeSoto coupe at the
    far right behind the 1937 Plymouth in the second picture?

  4. The car in the lower right of the last photo appears to be a 1933 Dodge coupe. Suicide doors and ram radiator mascot being the clues. It doesn’t appear to be more than four or five years older than the other cars. Zeke

  5. What’s the car at the bottom of the second picture, with a grill split by a thin divider? I don’t recall ever seeing that model before.

  6. It looks like an earlier Zephyr 3rd in line on the trolly tracks in the Philly picture. I do like the 33 Plymouth Coupe on the right in the same photo.

  7. The stake bed truck looks like a late 30’s Federal, not sure about the others. I’m curious about the bus with the whitewall tires on the extreme left.

      • Hi David, looks close, but didn’t the “Western Clippers” come out in 1941? And even then, on a limited basis. I’d find it hard to believe someone would be driving one around Chicago at this time. Gene would know.

        • I found evidence when I did that post that the first one may have been built as early as 1939.

          Check Dan Strohl’s post “This, officer, is not a truck. It is a housecar.” The incomplete history of the Brooks Stevens motorhomes at Hemming’s Daily where he also found about the same thing.

  8. I am having trouble identifying the location in the Chicago photograph. If someone could, please, shed some light, it’d be greatly appreciated!

  9. I have the same location wonderment. I’m from there, worked as a photographer for nine years for the Chicago Sun-Times but that was in the 1970s. In 1939, my parents hadn’t even met so I wasn’t exactly hanging out on some rooftop with one of the guys from the four major dailies. Or the city’s own shooter. But it’s amazing that in 1939 there was that much traffic and that the city already had designated major thoroughfares as one-way routes. Look at that! Traffic six lanes wide! I would really love to know where this was. Two huge churches side-by-side? I just cannot place it.

  10. you have your cities incorrectly identified. the first image is taken from the philadelphia city hall at broad & market streets, looking north. the masonic temple is on the upper right. the second image is downtown philadelphia also; chestnut street, just east of broad street, looking west. wannamaker”s department store is at near-right. from a former phila. resident. GREATLY enjoy your web-site!

  11. I feel that the first picture is not Chicago, In this period of time, the street car line was CSL (Chicago Surface Line). Twould have been noted as a logo shaped in an almost circle. This logo would be centerted on the sides of the street cars,

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