Wild Car Wrecks From the Golden Age of the Automobile

For the younger generations it might be hard to imagine a time before seat belts, airbags and crumple zones were standard features in cars, but it wasn’t really that long ago. These astounding photos capture the golden age of the automobile around Boston Massachusetts in the 1920s and 1930s, showing the aftermath of car wrecks in the simple yet speedy cars of the era. At the time, cars had become affordable to the masses, but when you consider that people were not required to take a driving test of any sort, and drinking and driving was legal unless you were considered outright intoxicated, it’s not surprising that these wild wrecks happened frequently.

It’s wild to see how much these old autos disintegrated on impact back in the day. In some of the images we have here, we see cars wrapped around trees, spilling their interiors all over the ground and certainly the majorly injured passengers. In one shot a truck precariously hangs by one wheel off the side of a bridge. These are clearly the days before Ralph Nader’s famous automotive critique Unsafe at Any Speed.

The collection comes from the Boston Public Library and were taken by Leslie Jones, a staff photographer for the Boston-Harald Traveler newspaper between 1917 and 1956. Jones captured everything around the city for five decades before he passed away in 1967. His family then donated a huge collection of 34,000 prints to the Boston Public Library.

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  1. Judith Iscariot

    It’s amazing to see how some of those vehicles seem to be utterly destroyed by objects that, with today’s designs and standards, would merely dent your fender – or in some photos, would have destroyed the offending object (i.e. trees in a couple of cases). Not to mention tires the width of (at most) a modern motorcycle tire. Yeesh.

  2. HarryUSA


    Nice post. I used the top photo for a college history paper on man’s clash with the auto as it was first introduced for public consumption.

    I can see from the pics that there were a few snags along the way!


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