The folks at the Boston City Archives wonder if you can tell which transit line this was - and when the photo was taken. See it larger.
Car no. 0706 was built in 1928 and ran on the Cambridge-Dorchester subway, today's Red Line.
In 1948, four of these cars had their interiors upgraded with leather seats, ceiling fans, and fluorescent lights to promote the proposed extension to Braintree. This picture was probably taken to document the aforementioned modifications.
Additionally, these cars were painted bright orange — a departure from the traditional drab olive green.
And today people dressed up in sports slob casual attire sit on war crime level ugly carpet remnant upholstery with every bit of filth known to humanity contaminating it, under dodgey flourescent lighting, and breathing from HVAC which has not had a filter change since the Carter Administration.
World class progress baby!
I vividly remember my mother taking my brother & I in to Jordan's & Filene's on just such cars out of Ashmont. What an unexpected memory rush this photo has triggered....
I recall taking that line downtown to go shopping with my aunt at Jordan's & Filene's. We got dressed up and wore white gloves. Regular people used to get spiffed up to go out in public.
Now we get this.
I far prefer no pants AND no smoking, thanks.
"Stupid white men!"
What, people of color who are also allowed to ride the train? I'd say we're doing better as a society, but others may disagree.
They also had to push the train uphill both ways to use it, ok?
Actually, we still do though....
WAY too many men skip leg day. Do not skip leg day, boys. Everyone likes strong, shapely legs - especially if you're going to be running around in your knickers.
Pants come off.
Well, one of them is dressed up. Sort of.
Why is my mother on the train (front row) without my father??!
On the Subway apparently.
why is nobody playing with themselves?
..the photo was taken during a time when people had a modicum of decency.
This is the fabled MBTA monochrome line linking North Station and South Station.
Back when people made the effort to present themselves accordingly on a daily basis. A little bit of effort across the board would be welcomed for today's society.
Now I'm lucky if I DON'T see a female shopping in pajama pants or a guy with pants sitting well below his waist wearing a 2X too big shirt. Some will defend these scenarios as "fashion" or "freedom of expression", etc. The reality is, it shows how lazy & self-loathing society is.
How did anyone get through a day without taking 70% of their worldly possessions with them in a backpack?
What a coincidence that every person on this train forgot their phones!
Oh, wait, I guess one guy had his, otherwise how would he have taken the picture?
"How did anyone get through a day without taking 70% of their worldly possessions with them in a backpack?'
The thing I don't get is the need people now feel to carry a beverage with them 24/7. People carry water, ice coffee, hot coffee, power drinks, soda, vitamin water and other liquids in their hand on the T almost like an accessory. There are even specially made mugs for this purpose. I understand that keeping hydrated is important, but it isn't really necessary to carry a drink on one's person at all times in all circumstances.
...are they really riding more than two stops without a bottle of water?
We have no clue what the background story is with this picture. It's one moment in time. A split second snapshot of whatever was happening right there at that time. It looks like a Sunday church choir heading home for the day. But any day of the week I could take a picture of different groups, but to suggest in the future that it represents your typical day in the subway would be so wrong.
There are no blue collar workers, no minorities, no poor people and no children.
While I agree that today's commuters like to travel a little more "comfortable", it's ridiculous to suggest that everyone worked in their Sunday best, back in the day.
And you'll see that, with certain exceptions like laborers - who had to dress grubby because they got dirty at work, the average person was generally better dressed in public than they are today.
So, athough this photo may have been a 'posed' shot by the Boston Elevated Railway to publicize their rebuilt cars, the dress the patrons are wearing can be described as average for the time.
Indeed, a century ago, the least formal clothing that was proper for people to appear in public in was the sports jacket, which is now typically considered "formal" by most people. Above the sports jacket were blazers and suits, which were still considered "informal." Formal dress meant a tuxedo.
And was struck by how immaculately dressed people were--in both the clips of ball games and demonstrations. The universal hats on the men but overall just much more attention paid to fitted, stylish attire. Also amazing how much thinner people were generally--in any crowd shot everyone looks positively angular and anyone overweight really stands out.
You can catch films of old Red Sox games on the Red Sox Comcast Cable channel. Watching a game from the 67 playoffs I was amazed how the women wore dresses and the men were in shirts and ties (hats, too).
Only a couple or maybe three camera angles on the game and they had to stop the game because someone was throwing a beach ball around in the stands. Finally someone popped it with their cigarette, which were in abundance.
As a kid, my parents would never leave the house without being "dressed". For mom it was a dress and pumps - even to go grocery shopping. Dad was always shirt and tie.
This picture is how people dressed everyday, in those times.
Even by the time I became cognizant of my surroundings (I was born in 1957 and lived in Lower Mills) it was the norm to see people traveling in suits, hats, dresses, etc., on the Red Line. My Mom would dress me in a suit when she took me with her on a downtown shopping trip and it was the same for most of my classmates and their moms.
"Poor people" cannot be verified just by looking at how these people are dressed. My family wasn't poor - middle-class would describe us - but many in my neighborhood would have been termed "poor" and most still dressed up to take a trip downtown.
(Look at any crowd shot from a sporting event back in the day, excluding a sweltering hot summer afternoon. I think you'll find most men wore suits and hats, while ladies wore dresses and sometimes white gloves and pearls.)
If it was between, say, 8 and 3 during a school day, one wouldn't expect to see children on the subway. Most schools in Boston were local and didn't require public transportation. Truant officers were probably a real thing when this shot was taken and any unaccompanied children of school age would have been subject to their scrutiny.
The guy in the middle of the shot looks to be a "blue collar worker", holding a weekday-sized newspaper. Women ALWAYS dressed in skirts, dresses, etc., and a woman wearing what might now pass for public consumption - sweats, jeans, whatever - would have been so odd and out of place that folks likely would have thought her deranged and have kept their distance.
Minorities, for better or worse, were rarely seen on some segments of the Red Line because the neighborhoods served in Dorchester and Mattapan were mostly white at that time. The lack of any darker faces was my first clue that this was likely the Red Line. The other lines were much more likely places to see minorities, back in the day when this photo appears to have been taken.
This actually looks fairly representative of the time period - late 40's or early 50's - to me.
Go back to bohhh's comment above, the first in the string, which accurately gives us some part of the background story for this photo. My guess is that it was probably taken by the MTA (which ran the transit system at the time) in order to document the improvements they had made to this set of cars. In that case, it's likely that they brought in a group of people to portray "typical transit riders" of the day. They probably aren't actors, but may be friends and relatives of MTA officials who were instructed to wear their Sunday best for the occasion.
After all, if you're trying to show how good the train looks, you don't want the passengers to detract from the composition.
Even black and white film of the day was not great at low-light scenes, requiring a long exposure time which in turn would suffer from the vibrations inherent on a moving train. So the photo was probably taken while the train was stopped, either at a station on more likely in the Eliot Yards in Cambridge (where the Harvard Kennedy School of Government is today on JFK Street). It appears to be completely dark outside the car, not even the lights you'd normally expect to see in a station. On the other hand, there is plenty of illumination coming from the area of the photographer, implying extensive use of flashbulbs or photofloods — something that would never be allowed on a train in revenue service.
Clearly a staged photo, in my opinion.
Well, it is freedom of expression, but that doesn't mean it's also not disgusting. These aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should, seems to be a concept people have forgotten.
All you men criticizing the way people dress now had better look like you just stepped right out of a Leyendecker illustration, because otherwise, you're probably just as comparatively schlubby as everyone you're trying to drag right now.
[Since you all asked, I am always beautifully attired.]
In pointing out how people used to dress, I wasn't claiming that I dress that way now. I plead guilty to almost always wearing jeans and sneakers.
As a matter of fact, I'm at work now and I'm typing this in my underwear. The general population, I'm sure, is thankful that I work from home.
The straw hats and white shoes put this between Memorial Day and Labor Day in Boston. The straw boater and Optimo Panama hats are throwbacks to an older era, but the cat glasses on the lady on the right suggest this is right on the edge of the Truman/Eisenhower years.
BTW... men wearing hats at ballparks in the '30s ad '40s wasn't just a fashion statement but a practical necessity. The wet look (pomade or oil in the hair) required protection outdoors to keep dust and gnats from sticking to your head. When the wet look turned dry in the 1960s, men's hats disappeared.
Car 0719 lives in Maine today
I'd always heard that hats as everyday menswear disappeared around the early 1960s because car manufacturers lowered rooflines, reducing headroom and making it more difficult to wear a hat while driving. Urban legend has it that President Kennedy was partially responsible; he appeared hatless at his inauguration and frequently thereafter.
because he didn't like the way he looked in hats. Which I can imagine to be true--for such a handsome guy, he just doesn't seem to have had the right head type and obvious had great hair--looks batter bareheaded.
I recall a clip of president kennedy at a breakfast reception the morning of his assassination where they presented him with a "shady oak western hat". it was a cowboy hat and JFK wanted no part of it and did not put it on his head, much to the crowds chagrin. it was definitely an awkward moment but certainly not the worst part of his day.
JFK was the last president to wear a top hat to his inauguration, famously doffing it to his father, who watched from the White House reviewing stand as the presidential limousine rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue. As president, Kennedy helped accelerate the hatless trend because he wore his hair dry, without the grease/oil that was popular in the first half of the 20th century.
Thanks for playing, folks! This photo was taken in 1948 and shows a car in the Cambridge Tunnel (what we now know as the red line). The MTA, expecting to extend service to the South Shore, redid a four car train with cross seats and modern lighting. The cars were well received, but were not duplicated.
We knew the date of the photo, but the rest of the information was kindly supplied by our friend Leo Sullivan. Thanks Leo!
in 1948 & it only took them 23 yrs. to do it (as far as North Quincy anyway) and another 9 before extending to Braintree. I'm curious about what the '48 plan was & why it took so long to get done. Can anyone enlighten me?
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