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christmas shopping

Vintage photo of vehicles and people cramming the sidewalks and streets in Boston around Xmas 1919

Throngs of Christmas shoppers fill the street on Washington Street, Boston, 1919. There must have been some really excellent sales judging from the number of people; the sidewalks are so crowded that the shoppers are spilling out onto the street, blocking traffic.

On the right is a Jordan Marsh Department Store and farther up the street, on the left, is a store selling Manning’s Umbrellas. These umbrellas were manufactured according to a patent granted to J.T. Manning for a folding umbrella, and were all the rage in 1919.

Drilling down and enlarging this vintage photo reveals interesting details about life in a big American city. Below we can see a horse drawn carriage stuck in traffic with a beautiful motorized car.

Boston traffic

Closeup view of traffic in Boston which included a mix of automobiles and horse drawn carriages.

In this other closeup we can see the pedestrians all bustling together on the sidewalk and walking in and out of traffic. This is not even the most crowded section of the street. In some spots you cannot even see any of the sidewalk because it is wall to wall people.

What is interesting about this street scene is that the photo was taken in 1919 at the height of the Spanish Flu epidemic. No one in the photo seems to be wearing masks and they are definitely not social distancing. Scenes like these are even more remarkable given our present circumstances as we face our own pandemic.

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Victor Doppelt

Victor Doppelt

Victor Doppelt explores the world of yesterday through vintage photographs and informative articles.