Krulwich On Science

Time Travel On The Cheap

How many times have I wandered into a room and wondered what was it like right here, right where I'm standing, 50 years ago? 70 years ago? 100 years ago?

Somebody knows. Among the hundreds of millions of old photos crammed into shoe boxes and albums, somebody somewhere has an old photo of this very room.

And if by some magic I could fetch that photo, I could hold it in front of me and see the Room That Was while standing in the Room That Is. With a flick of my eye I could travel across time from now to then. This is time travel on the cheap. Here's an outdoor version:

Union Station, Washington, D.C. in 2009 and 1943.

Union Station, Washington, D.C. in 2009 and 1943. Original photo courtesy of Library of Congress (Jason Powell) hide caption

itoggle caption

Cool, no?

This shot of a lady sassily smoking a cigarette at Union Station in D.C. was taken in the 1940s. It will be two, three decades before the surgeon general tells her she's gotta give it up.

There are more photos, which a guy called "edrabbit" on Flickr assembled in a gallery. "Ed" (whom I have never met — he seems to be a photographer) has invited folks to pose their old photos in their original settings. Here are some more:

  • Thomas Circle, Washington, D.C., 2009. Original photo: 1911.
    Hide caption
    Thomas Circle, Washington, D.C., 2009. Original photo: 1911.
    Jason Powell
  • Carvel Hall, Annapolis, Md., June 2009. Original photo: 1920.
    Hide caption
    Carvel Hall, Annapolis, Md., June 2009. Original photo: 1920.
    Jason Powell
  • U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., July 2009. Original photo: Capitol, Washington, D.C., dome and front unfinished, June 28, 1863. Library of Congress
    Hide caption
    U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., July 2009. Original photo: Capitol, Washington, D.C., dome and front unfinished, June 28, 1863. Library of Congress
    Jason Powell
  • Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, circa 2006. Original photo: circa 1960s.
    Hide caption
    Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, circa 2006. Original photo: circa 1960s.
    Gordon Calder
  • The original photograph is a poster advertising a 1971 student government election at Oregon State University.
    Hide caption
    The original photograph is a poster advertising a 1971 student government election at Oregon State University.
    Han Uth
  • Main Street, Annapolis, Md., June 2009  Original photo:160-166 Main Street, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Md., 1964
    Hide caption
    Main Street, Annapolis, Md., June 2009 Original photo:160-166 Main Street, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Md., 1964
    Jason Powell
  • 8133 Main St., Ellicott City, Md., April 2009. Original photo: 8133 Main St. (shop front), Ellicott City, Howard County, Md., circa 1933. Library of Congress
    Hide caption
    8133 Main St., Ellicott City, Md., April 2009. Original photo: 8133 Main St. (shop front), Ellicott City, Howard County, Md., circa 1933. Library of Congress
    Jason Powell
  • Church in Salthill, Galway, Ireland, May 2008. Original photo: Wedding in Galway, 1976.
    Hide caption
    Church in Salthill, Galway, Ireland, May 2008. Original photo: Wedding in Galway, 1976.
    Keith Woods
  • Willard Hotel, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., March 2009. Original photo: Occidental Hotel, circa 1930s. Library of Congress
    Hide caption
    Willard Hotel, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., March 2009. Original photo: Occidental Hotel, circa 1930s. Library of Congress
    Jason Powell
  • This undated image is from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay Admissions' Flickr set of now-and-then campus photos.
    Hide caption
    This undated image is from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay Admissions' Flickr set of now-and-then campus photos.
    Todd Sanders
  • Union Station Square, Washington, D.C., March 8, 2009. Original photo: Woman putting on her lipstick in a park with Union Station behind her, Washington, D.C., circa 1943. Library of Congress
    Hide caption
    Union Station Square, Washington, D.C., March 8, 2009. Original photo: Woman putting on her lipstick in a park with Union Station behind her, Washington, D.C., circa 1943. Library of Congress
    Jason Powell

1 of 11

View slideshow i

I especially like that woman taking her pet rabbit out for a walk in D.C.'s Thomas Circle. Who knows how many rabbits General George Henry Thomas (up on the bronze horse) has seen over the years — maybe just this one. And, by the way, I have no idea what she has in her left hand. Is that a teapot?

(Thanks to Steve Silberman for sending this to me)

Have an idea? Pitch it!

The Picture Show on Facebook or on Twitter

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.