Smogopolis: Stunning Historic Photos of Air Pollution

Click to see some fascinating images of air pollution throughout the US from the 1920s to the 1970s.

11 photos
In this April, 22, 1970 file photo, a Pace College student in a gas mask "smells" a magnolia blossom in City Hall Park on Earth Day, April 22, 1970, in New York. Click to see more stunning images.
An aerial view of the River Rouge Ford Motor Company factory in Dearborn, Mich., shown Dec. 28, 1922.
A soot storm swept over a three-mile area in Philadelphia and Mrs. John Long and her six-year-old son, Christopher, awoke like this, June 22, 1953. Hundreds of persons discovered the soot had spread over bed clothing, furniture and sidewalks during the night. The soot was traced to a generating plant of an electric company where a spokesman said failure of a soot-collecting apparatus in the smoke-discharge system was to blame.
Cars and trucks creep through low-hanging smoke and fog on the New Jersey Turnpike, Nov. 20, 1953. The smog blanketed the heavily industrialized Elizabeth-Newark area for four days and resulted in scores of people being treated for eye irritation and burning sensations in nose and throat.
An aerosol can, loaded with DDT, Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, is used here against flies. It has since been shown that DDT can cause cancer and poses a threat to wildlife, specifically birds.
Betty Cook, a lab assistant at the Stanford Research Institute, is shown taking a "blink test" as part of a project to study smog in Stanford, Calif. April 27, 1949. The test gauged eye irritation through photoelectric cells which recorded each blink of the eyes. The plastic helmet was filled with measured amounts of smog. Mrs. Cook wore glassless goggles that acted as blink recorders. She read a book to give uniform reaction conditions.The smog project was conducted by the Air and Water Pollution Laboratory and Fumes of the Western Oil and Gas Association.
A gasoline station attendant on New York City’s Henry Hudson Parkway glances at his watch as he serves the last customer before the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew, Aug. 3, 1941. A sign reminds the inbound motorists that the station is to close during the 12-hour period in response to a government request that sales be suspended in eastern seaboard states during a gas rationing during WWII.
Only three buildings and several columns of smoke are visible above this dense fog blanket that settled over Tulsa, Oklahoma, reducing visibility to zero and tying up traffic, Jan. 15, 1944. The Mayor Hotel, center, is a 19-story structure.
A Cleveland defense committee arranged a test “Smokeout” April 29, 1942. This picture, taken from the ground nearly a mile from Cleveland’s terminal tower which dominates the downtown skyline, shows how the 752-foot tower was somewhat obscured. The smoke covered a five-mile area.
The clock at right center shows a quarter to noon, but in downtown Pittsburgh, Pa., residents walked in artificially lighted streets, Jan. 19, 1944. Trolley motormen and motorists used their headlights and storekeepers switched on their signs when one of the heaviest smogs in the city's history blanketed the town.
Smog obliterates the New York City skyline, 1969.
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