With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

William H Thompson Photographs

Main St.
A Sad City friend and reader (the same reader who navigated the Park River) sent us this awesome collection of Hartford photos from the CT State Library. The photos were all taken between 1903-1906 by William H Thompson. The CT Library's Flicker describes Thompson;

"William H. Thompson was a professional photo-engraver with the Hartford Engraving Company in Hartford from about 1901-1917. Thompson from 1903-1906 took photographs of street scenes, river scenes, architecture, statues, and parks of central Hartford. He took these photographs, according to a memo to State Librarian George Godard, because “he thought [they] would later be of historic interest.” In 1918 due to ill health he sold his photograph collection to the State Library."
"Addresses for buildings were obtained from the Sanborn Insurance Maps of Hartford, 1900 and Geer’s Hartford City Directory, 1904-1906. Addresses from 1903-1906 may not corroborate with matching addresses today as names of streets in Hartford have changed. For example, what is known as Columbus Boulevard in 2012 was Front Street during the period of 1903-1906. What is in 2012 known as Front Street did not exist from 1903-1906."

Sounds like our sort of things. Let's take a look at some highlights. As our friend said when he sent them, "I noticed there's no heavyset people." As morbid as it is, we can't help but note that everyone in these photos would now be dead. 

Just serves as a reminder to us, that we all too shall pass and that it is all very, very temporary.

Main St

Here we see Hartford's first lowrider.

Main St south of Sheldon

What were the traffic rules between horse carriage and cars in these days? Did they use different lanes? Did the carriages have to get out of the way for the cars? Did the cars wheels ever fling horse dung up onto pedestrians? Such turbulent times.

St. Johns Episcopal
Whoa whoa whoa! Stop the clock!! What do we see in the lower right of this photo? Is it possible?!!?!? Could it be?!?!? YES!!!  It appears that we have an over 100 year old mattress colony sighting! You know what they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Main St south of Wells

On the left we can see the black clock that is still outside City Steam to this day. It's a real cool artifact that gets passed by many every day. It's worth taking a minute to stop and check it out.

Market St south of Temple

A few interesting things to note here. The trolley tracks for one. Today rail of some sort remains a dream for most Hartford residents. Odd they were able to figure it out a century ago. The ad in the back right referencing Manchester and Aetna is cool. The street lamp looks extremely dangerous. The old school mailbox in the lower left is cool, there's still a few of those left around town. Finally what is that lady in the left between the two poles doing?

State St west of Front St
The blurry people make this photo very cool. Not to mention the creepy fact that all these kids would be like 108 today. 


Don't you see the blurry guy crossing the street has an iPhone!?!?!! It's totally there! WTF!?!?! Is this some sort of conspiracy promulgated by Obama and the lizard folk?!!?

North Side of Main St at State St
How awesome is that Wilson High Ball ad? Do you think there's any chance an intact on of those still exists somewhere? Speaking of, we could really go for a high ball right now. Seeing as how whisk(e)y is all the rage these days, isn't it time we bring the high ball back into vogue? And smoking. It's definitely time smoking made a bit of a comeback.

Front St north of Ferry
Is there any doubt that Sad City would be hanging out at this fine establishment if we were blogging back in 1903? Looks like Hartford's own Gem Saloon. No doubt we would have to go out onto the thoroughfare and settle some scores! 

Note the Manhattan reference on top of the establishment.

Temple east of Market
Uneeda Biscuit is just an awesome product name. Classic. Sadly Uneeda Biscuit was discontinued by Nabisco in 2009. Uneedto ClickonmoreSadCitylinks.


  1. This is so cool! So little is left, though ....

  2. Crazy to see areas that I know so well but look so different.

  3. Very cool. But how could miss the photo with the Hungarian Boys Band (on the left). This intersection still exists with the old G-Fox parking lot on the right and the back of Capital Community College on the left. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ctarchives/6754845715/in/set-72157629011956367/

  4. We're really glad you and your readers are enjoying the Thompson Collection. You can also see them on our Historypin Channel at http://www.historypin.com/channels/view/2662022. You can view all these sights superimposed on modern day Google street views! It gives you a real sense of place.

  5. The photos seem like still-lifes. We do not see faces or movement although people are moving. Hartford appears very tidy and clean. I do not sense an area of poverty. Just a quiet town on a quiet Saturday morning perhaps.

  6. You might be eligible to get a Apple iPhone 7.