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Was the World a Better Place 100 Years Ago? Photographic Evidence

Yesterday Glenn Reynolds linked to this very beautiful set of black and white photographs, most of which are around 100 years old, although some go back to the Civil War. Glenn notes, “It’s sad to see how much better Detroit looked at the beginning of the last century. . . .” Well, yes: but that is a low bar. My reaction is, it isn’t just Detroit. The whole world looks better to me–less crowded, cleaner, more confident and hopeful. Better dressed, too.

There are lots of photos at the link. Here are a few samples. In all cases, you can click to enlarge. Times Square, 1908:

Daytona Beach, 1910:

The launching of the steamer Frank J. Hecker at St. Clair, Michigan, 1905:

A shop interior, Washington, D.C., 1924:

Lincoln Park, Chicago, 1910:

Excursion steamers at the wharves in Detroit, 1901:

Lincoln Memorial, 1922. And, no, I don’t think the guy on the left is Abe:

The Pompeiian Room at the Seneca Hotel, New York, 1908. Can I get a reservation for dinner tomorrow night?

The Steel Pier, Atlantic City, 1910:

Belle Isle Park, Detroit, 1908:

A year or so ago, a friend observed that we are becoming a nation of app designers. Maybe I’m just feeling down tonight, but that phrase comes to mind when I look at these photos of a past that seems, sadly, unrecoverable.

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