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Wissahickon Drive Traffic Jam Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Today’s featured “Philadelphia Evening Bulletin” press image was taken by Joseph Wasko on April 18, 1957, near the scene of an accident on Wissahickon Drive to document “Traffic Congestion” in the City. What appears to be the Wissahickon Creek is visible on the left side of the photo.

The newest vehicle visible is a 1957 Plymouth two-door sedan at the head of the right-hand lane, the second car in the left-hand lane two is a 1956 Pontiac. The majority of the other vehicles visible in the photo date back to the earlier 1950s. Please share with us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the Temple University Libraries.

24 responses to “Wissahickon Drive Traffic Jam Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  1. A ’53 Packard Clipper followed by a ’56 Pontiac and ’52 Chevrolet in the outside lane. A ’57 Plymouth, ’49 Pontiac and ’53 Buick on the inside lane. A ’55 DeSoto convertible headed away in the other lane. All cars driven by frustrated drivers looking through those tiny wiper patches and damp fog on the windshield inside, those with vacuum wipers swearing to only buy their next car with electric wipers!

    • The picture is a little blurry but the car in front of the 55 DeSoto convertible looks to me like a 1957 Oldsmobile. If so, there are at least two 1957 vehicles in the photo. Still, I would have thought that by April of 1957 there would have been more 57s on the road.

      My grandfather owned a 59 Ford at one time. It had vacuum wipers. What a riot that was to drive in the rain. Try to pass someone and wipers stopped dead; back off the gas, wipers went back to full speed. Full throttle, wipers went dead again. But even part throttle would slow them down. Seemed completely backwards to how one would want wipers to work, I thought.

      • One of the lost arts of driving is backing off the gas while climbing a hill in the rain so the wipers could get a couple of swipes in.

        • I remember that! Then, when you started down the other side of the hill, the wipers would slap back and forth ten times faster than they needed to.

    • Damn! That black ’52 Chevrolet and black ’49 Pontiac look so similar to one another that at first glance it’s hard to tell them apart despite being different makes and being made three years apart. The same essential body however was undoubtedly used on both cars.

    • I have a sweet little ’52 Chevy 4-door sedan in high school. An old guy had it and it was in really good shape. One of my favorite cars.

  2. If the picture is of Lower Wissahickon Drive, it’s now Lincoln Drive. Upper Wissahickon Drive was closed to automotive traffic in the 1920s and is colloquially known as Forbidden Drive. From Ridge Avenue to Wissahickon Avenue, the road was Lower Wissahickon Drive, changing to Lincoln Avenue (and later Lincoln Drive) after passing through Rittenhouse Town en route to Mt Airy. In the 1970s the Lower Wissahickon name was removed to avoid confusion between Upper Wissahickon Drive, Lower Wissahickon Drive, and Wissahickon Avenue. The Lincoln name was extended to include what was Lower Wissahickon Drive and runs from Ridge Avenue to Mt Airy.

    • I’m from Ashland, in Schuylkill County. Whenever we went to Philadelphia I loved seeing the signs to Wissahickon Drive. It seemed so urban, so classy, and it rolls nicely off the tongue.

  3. As David noted, a ’57 Plymouth up front, a Savoy Club Sedan, beside a ’53 Packard Clipper Sedan, Then a ’50 Pontiac Chieftain Sedan beside the ’56 Pontiac, an 870 or 860 Sedan. Right side a ’53 Buick…can’t guess which model…beside a ’52 Chevy. Just a guess: behind the Chevy, the car seems to have the arching cowl and full width cowl vent of a ’54-’56 Cadillac or Senior Buick…and very likely a convertible. The headlight hood more resembles that of a Cadillac, a ’54 or ’55 vs the broader, flatter top of a ’56’s.

    Four cars behind the Buick is perhaps a ’57 Chevy Two-Ten or Bel Air; two behind that may be a ’56 Dodge..and just ahead of it a ’49 DeSoto with its distinctive lip on the top of the bumper and wraparound chrome close beneath the headlight.

    Driving the other way a ’55 Desoto convertible…since it’s a single body color, it has the straight side trim of either a Fireflite or Firedome. Ahead of that a ’57 Olds with the arched trunk lid of an early/mid-50s Packard ahead of it.
    A ’56 Chevy Bel Air Sedan parked to the right beside an early-‘50s convertible…something with a fairly short rear deck and lower rear fender chrome strip …could be a Dodge or a Plymouth. But the little dark spot that resembles a Cadillac’s taillight is probably part of the taller dark vehicle beside it…Cadillacs didn’t have a chrome strip where this one does.
    Anyway, beyond that, a dark over light ’53 or later Studebaker Starlight Coupe of indeterminate model.

    Way to the rear, just where the lineup starts to curve right might be a ’57 Chevy, possibly a wagon with its more bulbous roof.

  4. And the convertible heading away . . . chasing maybe a ’57 Olds. Maybe a tri-power Olds . . . not real sure about the convertible tho . . .

    • Wayne, behind the ’57 Olds is a ’55 Desoto…at over 78” wide it’s about 2” wider than the Olds and would be over 5“ wider than a ’53 or ’54 Dodge. For some perspective on a 5” difference in width, a ’68 Impala is less than 7” wider than a ‘68 Nova.

  5. This picture was taken on my Fourth Birthday. Doesn’t look much like Spring. In front of the ’55 DeSoto convertible looks like a 1957 Oldsmobile.

  6. That 57 Plymouth looks like it came from another planet. Good visual on the major changes in design that were coming..

  7. The cars all look so sad. The Plymouth looks downright mad. Could use a Bugeye Sprite to liven things up. Leave it to the British. 🙂

    • The “lower grille panel” (PN 175433; $13.95 in 1957) wears the “panel louvers” (PN 1624775; [$.95 per) which were added in mid-January, so we know when that Plymouth Sport Sedan was built, but the only way we can tell if it is a Savoy or a Plaza (both having 5 letters on fender fins) is if we can see stainless roof-rail mouldings, as the Savoy lower-body trim-and-two-tone paint option (including roof) was also available on the Plaza.

      The sheetmetal panel below grille/bumper was not liked by buyers (so brightwork was added), and despite what’s sometimes seen at shows, it remained argent, not body-colored — even on Belvedere and Fury. The trim strips were silver, not gold-anodized — as may be seen on some resto-mods today.

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