Small Town USA, 1950 – Nazareth, Pa.
photos from the petegrafton collection
Photos taken circa 1950 in the Nazareth, Pennsylvania area by a local press or freelance photographer, using a Speed Graphic ’45’ camera, the standard press camera of the time.
4″x5″ sheet negatives were used in the press Speed Graphic 45. The photo scanner used for the negatives reproduced here has a maximum photo scan size that results in the 4″ x 5″ being cropped. However, no significant photo details are lost, but it explains the semi-panaramic nature of the full photo that will be seen below. The format below will first show details from within the full photo, followed by the full photo itself.
How do we know this is Nazareth, PA? The U.S. eBay vendor that I bought the negatives from described them as being taken in the Nazareth and Easton area. Nazareth (and neighbouring Hecktown) is confirmed in details in some of the photos. Others, with no visual identification, are assumed to be in that area.
When these photos were taken in 1950 the top movies of the year were Walt Disney’s Cinderella, King Solomon’s Mines with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr, Spencer Tracey as The Father of the Bride, MGM’s musical Annie Get Your Gun, and Bette Davis in the Oscar winning All About Eve. Hit tunes of 1950 included Goodnight Irene, Nat King Cole’s Mona Lisa, The Third Man theme, from the Joseph Cotten film, and Sam’s Song from Gary and Bing Crosby.
Dutch? “Up until the mid-1900s, a large part of Nazareth’s population was of German origin, better known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. “Dutch” being a corruption of the word “Deutsch”, which is German for “German.” The Pennsylvania Dutch were spread throughout many counties of southern and central Pennsylvania. In addition to the modern nation of Germany, Pennsylvania Dutch from Germany, many also came from Switzerland and the Alsace, region of France.” – With grateful acknowledgement to the Nazareth Pa Wikipedia entry.
The Hecktown Volunteer Fire Company was founded in 1917 and serves the Lower Nazareth Township. See hecktownfire.org
A former British Girl Guide comments on the above photos, based on her experience of being a Brownie then Guide (Scout in the US) in the U.K. 1950s/1960s. “I am surprised that they have not got more badges on the uniform but then it is possibly a new pack. The girls at the back without uniforms have not yet been enrolled….a wee ceremony after you have learned your brownie promise etc. Only then do you get to wear the uniform! There are a lot of new ones so maybe just starting up.” (1.)
The inclusion of a Russian MIG 15 model in the display suggests the year is 1950. The MIG 15 jet fighter came into service of the Red airforce in 1949, and at the start of the Korean war (1950) was the fastest jet fighter in the world, outclassing U.S. aircraft until the North American F-86 Sabre was introduced. It is not known whether there was a US news embargo on reporting the superiority of the MIG 15 until it was countered by the F-86 Sabre. On the display box the MIG 15 has just downed an unidentified plane. It’s possible that in a 1951 Childrens Christmas Toys display the MIG 15 model would not be displayed.
After the Second World War TV developed quickly in the United States and by 1950 there were those in Hollywood who saw the danger of TV taking audiences away from their movies. This gave a boost to colour movies, wide-screen presentations and experiments with 3D film. At the time of writing, 2019, no U.S. company manufactures TVs from US made parts.
The high elevation of the downward looking shot suggests a flying saucer. Presumably the photographer is up a step-ladder. He’s using a strong flash – note the shadows. Unpleasant aliens/beings from Outer Space threatening Earth were to become a theme of many 1950s Hollywood movies. Human bodies and not pets were snatched in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
The young baby girl in the photo above will be, in 2019, approximately seventy years old, four years younger than the writer of this Post.
The present population of Nazareth is around 5,746. Nazareth was created in 1740 by religious Moravian immigrants from Germany.
In terms of jobs, historically cement mills have been a large employer in the area.
In addition, a world-wide name for excellence in acoustic guitars, Martin guitars were founded in Nazareth in 1833 by German emigre Christian Frederick Martin. The Martin headquarters and primary factory are still in Nazareth. Contemporary players of the Martin guitar include Ed Sheeran. Back in the 1960s Martin guitars were favourites with singer-songwriter Jackson C Frank (born 1943, Buffalo, N.Y.), who took a boat to England and in 1965 recorded an LP in London, with Paul Simon producing.
- My thanks to Elspeth Wight for her thoughts re. the photos of the young Girl Scouts.