Take a Drive Down American Roads From 1969 to 2008

Photographer John Margolies captured life on the main streets, byways and highways of the U.S.

April 18, 2018 5:00 am

John Margolies conducted one of the most comprehensive documentary studies of commercial structures found alongside roads and freeways. Frequent subjects include gas stations, diners, motels, movie theaters, and odd signage. About half the slides are from California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Texas but the collection contains photographs from all 48 contiguous states. The Library of Congress began to acquire the photographs in 2007, and the bulk of the work arrived to them in 2015.

Margolies work chronicled a period of American history that is ultimately defined by the rise of the automobile. People were able to travel and move more quickly and easily, and roadside and commercial structures spread around the states. In many instances, the only record of these building is Margolies’ pictures, because much of it has been destroyed. Check out some of the images below.

Big Fish Supper Club, Bena, Minnesota
1980. Trail Drive-in Theater, SW Military, San Antonio, Texas
1982. Townley milk bottle, 24th and Classen Streets, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
1993. Red Run Lodge, Rouzerville, Pennsylvania
The Donut Hole, straight-on view, no cars, Amar Road, La Puente, California
Tire Man Big Brand tire statue, Van Nuys, California
1991. Sign, Castle Rock, Saint Ignace, Michigan
1988. World’s largest buffalo (46′ long, 26′ high, 60 tons), Jamestown, North Dakota
1990. Disco star ride, Seaside Heights, New Jersey
1978. Texaco gas pumps, Milford, Illinois
1977. Main Street stores, angle view, Red Bluff, California
1987. Adobe Diner, Route 64 & 285, Tres Piedras, New Mexico
1980. Adobe Diner, Route 64 & 285, Tres Piedras, New Mexico
1980. Dependable Used Cars sign, Division Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan
1982. Bob’s Java Jive, Route 99, Tacoma, Washington
1979. Coney Island Dairyland, end detail, Route 285, Aspen Park, Colorado

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