I’m a huge fan of Shorpy – and I see I’m not alone.
From rebelmetropolis.org: Examining Street Life Before the Automobile
Exactly when I first stumbled upon Shorpy.com I do not recall. … Once realizing the treasure I’d found, it also became apparent the vast hours of time that would be needed to properly peruse these thousands of extremely high resolution images documenting urban American life over the last 150 years or so.
Some of my favorites are of the bustling street scenes prior to the invasion of the automobile. …
When scrutinizing these street scenes, a few things jump out right away. Of course there are no traffic signals, there’s clearly no need for them. Streetcars, bicycles, and horse drawn carriages are everywhere. Where there is high traffic, those on foot still enjoy sidewalks upwards of forty feet wide along store fronts nestled into human-scaled buildings rarely more than 5 stories high.
But it’s also telling that there are no crosswalks for pedestrians. And why would there be? During this era – as it had been for thousands of years – you could safely cross wherever your heart desired and not have to watch for giant metal machines racing toward you. What’s more, the street here is not purely the thoroughfare – it is the essential common gathering place for demonstrations, for buying and selling food, for children to play in, for celebration, for lingering and people watching.
Richmond, Virginia 1908
Yet just a few years later all of this would change. … Enjoy the small collection of images below as a reminder of what we used to have, and be sure to view them at full resolution. The amount of historical detail you’ll find is fairly astonishing.
When you’ve got some hours to kill, dive in to the full archive at Shorpy.com. Here’s hoping someday we restore our city streets to the enriching, convivial places they used to be, before they were rendered hostile by the ‘convenience’ and ‘progress’ of the automobile.