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Interesting 1950s and ’60s Philadelphia Street Scenes

Today’s lead image contains traffic waiting for pedestrians to cross Market St. in Philadelphia, PA. The newest automobiles that can be seen and readily identified in this view appear to be 1960 and ’61 Dodges, a 1961 Chevrolet, and the oldest vehicle a postwar “bathtub” Packard. The Gimbels Warehouse sign on the side of the building on the far-left confirms that this is indeed Market St., the location of one of the three of the Company’s stores in the City at the time.

The second enlargeable photo below of traffic in a snowstorm was published on December 14, 1951, by the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Ironically the picture includes a Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper  billboard and clock in the upper center of the image. Both the Inquirer advertisement, and the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin sign on the first truck in the line in the left-hand lane feature the comics section in each paper.

Please share with us what you find of interest in these photographs courtesy of the Temple University Libraries.

24 responses to “Interesting 1950s and ’60s Philadelphia Street Scenes

  1. In the lead picture, the “bathtub” PACKARD parked on the far side of the picture, is a 1949 Eight Sedan – Golden Anniversary model or a 1950 Standard Eight.

    • The drivers of a 11 or 12 year old Packard and an eight year old Cadillac by 1961 was probably looked upon as a skinflint or oddball for keeping such an “old, out-of-date” car so long.

    • The first picture appears to include the main Post Office which still sits opposite 30th Street Station, on the south side of Market Street between 29th and 30th Sts. Until the late ’50s the Market-Frankford Elevated Railway came across this scene; it was buried in a subway as far west as 40th street circa 1958. At the same time the streetcar lines were relocated to tunnels as well (also still in existance today). Back when “The El” structure was here, the parking area in front of the post office was actually for eastbound traffic on Market St. This scene was largely unaltered from 1960 to 2008 after which Post Office functions were relocated from above the railroad tracks to the airport and the PO Building was repurposed and renovated.

  2. On the right in the second row of the first image, a white `61 Plymouth hardtop; possibly a Fury. In the second image, a `46 Cadillac cvt. faces the camera, waiting at the light.

  3. In the 3rd picture [2nd expandable photograph], to the left of the ’46 CADILLAC Club Coupé Convertible, is a 1949 PONTIAC Chieftain.

  4. In the Lead Photo or Item 1 of 2, over on the far right a ’56 Chrysler Windsor Newport hardtop, a ’60 Impala Sport Sedan, a ’50-ish Packard, a ’57 Chevy that appears to be a Bel Air sedan, probably a ’55 Ford Mainline Tudor, a ’61 Impala Sport Coupe, a ’59 Impala Sport Sedan, maybe a ’59 DeSoto sedan, a ’59 Pontiac coupe with a ’57 Ford Fairlane or Fairlane 500 passing.

    The Cadillac up front is a ’53 with a startling ’61 Plymouth Fury or Belvedere 2-door HT seen over its trunk and beside a ’56 Chevy Two-Ten hardtop. Parked on the other side is a ’56 Pontiac Star Chief Two-door Catalina behind a ’55 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan, a ’51 Ford Fordor, a ’53 Mercury sedan, a ’60 Dodge Dart Seneca sedan, a ’57 Chevy Bel Air Sport Coupe, a ’57-’59 Imperial and possibly a mid-‘50s Hillman Minx Cabriolet

    In Item 2 of 2, the Cadillac would be a ’47 Series 62 Convertible. The Mercury 4-door on the left puzzles me…it appears to have the lower front fender trim of a ’51 Monterey Coupe. Anyway, behind it a ’49 Pontiac.

  5. In the 60’s, my grandfather worked for Gimbels in MIlwaukee, at the time, paired with Schusters dept. store. He was a janitor there and came home with lot’s of goodies, he claimed, “were found on the floor”. The Packard, with those tail lights, has to be a 49-50. I always disliked when people called my ’50 Packard a “bathtub”, or “pregnant elephant”, it wasn’t much different than many other cars of the era. It seemed Packard always got that moniker, however. It is a fancier one, with chrome trim rings and a Cormorant hood ornament. In the stoplight drags, the bunch of guys in the 6 cylinder ’56 Chevy don’t have a chance, the ’59, with probably a V8 will win, up to about 80, and the Caddy takes over. Bottom pic, the 1st truck , looks like a Philly newspaper truck, the Hellmans is a late 30’s Chevy, next a New Design cabover GMC, the EMX might be a Mack. That’s pretty observant, Karl, you can tell which cars had good heat, big V8, lots of coolant, the flattie 6, not so much and I think the Caddy is a convertible. Trucks never had any heat to speak of.

  6. I like the references to comics in the ad on the side of the truck and the billboard on the building further back! Best part of any newspaper!

  7. Looks like the under seat heaters and windshield defrosters are working pretty well in the Cadillac but, perhaps, not keeping up in the Ford (foggy windshield and door glass down). One can just about envision a seconds-later photograph that catches the Ford driver reaching out through the opening to try and wipe his windshield clear.

  8. 1st photo: Hey look, right over the black Caddy’s right rear fender is the inspiration for all those gaping grilled Lexus cars ! Super photo this morning David, as always, thanks so much for helping start the day off with a smile !

  9. Opening photo is a nice 1956 Chevrolet 210 hardtop. Across the street is a 1956 Chrysler Windsor 2 door. Also a couple of black Chevy 4 door flat tops. A 1959 at the light, and a 1960 parked in front of the ’56 Vhrysler.

  10. That last photo is right around the time White Tower hit its peak with 230 locations. There’s one still operating in Toledo.

  11. Cadillac convertible in the second photo is a ’47 as evidenced by five grille bars, one less than a ’46. Also the top bar extends beyond the hood into the fenders on ’47s unlike a ’46 top bar that goes only to the bottom edge of the hood.

  12. The snow day picture gives a graphic example of just how poor the coverage of windshield wipers of that period was. Makes you appreciate the design of today’s.

  13. It appears the White Tower hamburger chain at the left of the snow picture was started as a knock-off of White Castle.

    Given this was still within the period the FDA was cleaning up the unsanitary conditions in the meat and dairy industries, using this as an advertising gimmick was probably not as fanciful as it might seem today.

  14. It appears the White Tower hamburger chain at the left of the snow picture was started nearly a century ago as a knock-off of White Castle. As the chain expanded during the Depression years, the whiteness of the restaurant was meant among other things to evoke the notion of hygienic conditions, and the chain had staff dressed as nurses, dubbed the “Towerettes,” to help make this argument. Given this was still within the period the FDA was cleaning up the unsanitary conditions in the meat and dairy industries, using this as an advertising gimmick was probably not as fanciful as it might seem today. Down considerably from a peak of 200+ locations in the 50s, one restaurant still exists in Toledo, Ohio.

  15. The third snowy picture appears to be taken on North Broad St. , just a few blocks above Vine St. This is apparent when you see the Packard sign on the far left side. The Packard Building was next to Roman Catholic High School, which is located at the corner of Broad and Vine Streets. Both buildings still exist today.

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