Remarkable footage of bustling downtown Los Angeles in the 1930s

Originally published at: Remarkable footage of bustling downtown Los Angeles in the 1930s | Boing Boing


To quote what @hungrylens said about the last “restoration”:


Fascinating, one question springs to mind though; when did jaywalking become an offence? Perhaps it’s a state-by-state thing, but as a U.K. resident, I’ve always understood that crossing a road anywhere other than at a recognised crossing point could result in a fine if caught, but watching that film there were people randomly crossing anywhere they fancied, even where there were police officer controlled crossings.


God, I love those old trams.


I wonder if the footage was taken to highlight the traffic awfulness. There were a number of cringey episodes of cars turning right at an intersection through a crowd of crossing pedestrians, e.g., 3:40 .

I agree about the red-blue-mud blur of “color restoration”. It ain’t. It helps the eye differentiate objects but only that.


According to, LA exacted jaywalking laws in 1925, at the behest of automobile manufacturers. This makes me wonder if that date is wrong, the film’s date is wrong or if the law just wasn’t well enforced.


I saw a few people walking with “sandwich boards” advertising what I couldn’t make out, this is very cool.


So cool to get a glimpse into everyday life almost a hundred years ago. So many pedestrians! So many streetcars! So much controlled chaos at intersections without traffic lights, just a couple of cops to direct traffic. Cars most definitely NOT giving pedestrians the right-of-way.

I think my favorite part was the detail of the pickup truck offloading a bundle of newspapers or magazines for the newsstand. Just a regular thing back then.


It would be a “lie” if it was presented as factually accurate. It isn’t; the title card clearly states

(not historically accurate)

What adding color, sound, stabilization etc. does do is help the viewer feel slightly more connection with what visiting Los Angeles during that time period might have felt like. Just like painted replicas of ancient Greek statues provides a more accurate impression of what it would have looked like to walk down the streets of Ancient Greece than the pristine white marble most of us are used to seeing even if we have only partial information hinting at how all the statues were painted.



And not-so-controlled-chaos. Traffic fatalities for drivers and pedestrians alike were much higher than they are today even though a considerably smaller proportion of Americans owned cars.


I recently came across this 1941 Travel film advertising San Francisco:

Two things that stood out to me:

  1. There was a place selling “Chop Suey Sundaes,” which sounds like a profoundly terrible idea:

  2. At about 8 minutes in the narrator notes how the newer homes have attractive architecture “contrasting greatly with the gaudiness of some of the earliest homes of the city” and then shows a row of classic Victorian homes as an example of the gaudiness.




it seems to be jaywalking by design. it looked like there were intersections with cops instead of lights - and the trams are in the middle of the street with people dodging a lane of traffic on either side to get on and off

it’s like frogger out there


From a European point of view: When is “coat season” in LA? Even winter months seem pretty warm according to the webs.

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Chop suey sundaes contained none of the ingredients of the Chinese dish:


The shear number of trams is impressive. Also, the complete lack of horses by the 1930s.


It’s refreshing to read BoingBoing comments about this. Reading the YouTube comments one sees that mere minutes after the video’s posting people were already grousing about the world having gone to hell (the number of clean people in the video showcased “conservative values”), the immigrants, the homeless, the woke, the Democrats bla bla bla bla bla. One person did point out that many of the people in the video (probably shot 1930-1932) were likely out of work due to the Depression, or soon would be. Whatever…history is a Rorschach test. Like the 1950s videos where everyone commented on the cool cars but no one mentioned the billboard advertising bomb shelters for only $799.

I think one “old America was better” commentator accidentally summed up the entire 1950s when he finished his list of things that were better back then by writing “sure, there may have been inequality back then, but at least I didn’t have to look at it.”

PS: I’m in the “this video is great” camp. As Brainspore suggested, even an approximation of what it might have looked like back then is worth NASS’ effort to make and to view these videos.


Right now.
It’s been pretty cold in Coastal Southern CA lately and will be for at least the rest of the week, especially at night. For us. For people from almost anywhere else, it wouldn’t feel that way.
Once you get used to the mild climate, anything under 60 or 65 seems cold. Walking the dogs tonight means a hat and a jacket at the least for me today. :slight_smile:


If a person from that video was to travel forward to today - and looked around at those walking down the street and how they are dressed now - I have to imagine they would think that the depression never ended and everyone is now poor.

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