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<April 2014>

by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Friday, April 17, 2009
Cars in Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

I'm taking a break from the house photo this week to give you time to receive copies of the print version of Family Tree Magazine and read about the other clues in that image. I have one more short installment to post.

In the meantime, I pulled out a different type of photo mystery. It's all about a car. I live with two gear-heads who can talk about engines and car design for hours. It runs in the male line of the family—every one of them has an antique automobile.

Naturally I was really happy to receive this photo in my inbox:

Chuck Baker3.jpg

This is Chuck Baker's dad's family. His question is about the car on the left. Could it help date the image?

Absolutely. He thought the picture was taken pre-World War II and that's likely. Here's why.

Chuck Baker2.jpgThe car definitely provides a beginning year for a time frame.  It appears to be a 1938 Dodge touring sedan. According to The Ultimate Auto Album: An Illustrated History of the Automobile by Tad Burness (Krause, $16.95) approximately 73,417 of these vehicles were produced. It sold for $898. 

The double-rear window is what led me to that identification.  The 1937 Chrysler Airflow also had two windows in the rear, but a different trunk design. There might be more automobiles out there with a double-rear window. If so, please let me know.

This identification was based on all the details visible in the back of the car. Ah ... if only I could see the front.

You're probably wondering if the license plate helped. It would have if I could've enhanced the image enough to see it clearly. It's quite blurry when I enlarge the image.

However, Chuck's family lived in southwest Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania first issued license plates in 1906, and every year a car owner had to get a new set of plates. That practice ended in the 1950s.

In 1956, license plates became a standard 6x12 inches.  If you want to read more about plates in Pennsylvania and see examples of late 20th-century versions, consult Vehicle Registration Plates of Pennsylvania on Wikipedia.

As for when this picture was taken, 1938 is the earliest everyone could have posed for this family gathering. The clothing suggests a time frame of late 1930s to early 1940s. Chuck Baker was right—the picture was taken before World War II.

1930s photos | candid photos | group photos | Vehicles in photos
Friday, April 17, 2009 7:13:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
Tuesday, April 28, 2009 3:52:48 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I wanted to send a photo of an early auto with some sort of hose and pump being displayed beside it, but the link for sending it is not working. Can you send it, please?
Barb McCoy
Thursday, April 30, 2009 8:04:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Is there any photo editing software that can focus what is in a picture? My grandmother had a photo of her mothers tombstone, I can make out the name, but underneath the name is the date. If I enlarge it I still can not read the dates?

Sunday, May 03, 2009 4:50:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Thank you for the mention of the resource: The Ultimate Auto Album: An Illustrated History of the Automobile by Tad Burness (Krause, $16.95) Is this or another available for online research??

Debra Yonker-Hecht
Saturday, May 23, 2009 6:49:50 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I'm not so sure about the dating on this photo being "pre-World War II", or "taken before World War II".

Even assuming the date of the vehicle is correct (and I think it may be) consider that due to the war, many folks kept their cars during the war years. I had relatives who kept late '30s vehicles as late as the early '50s. My grandfather used his old '38 Ford as a "Fishing car" until 1952-53, a great-uncle his old Dodge until after the war. My father didn't get our "new" car until he bought a 1947 Pontiac.

As to the clothes, again, I agree a possible "time frame of late 1930s to early 1940s", but this bunch could pass for part of my own family or neighbors AFTER WWII, and reminds me very much of pictures taken at a get-together when my uncle returned from the ETO in late 1945.
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