Bring back some good or bad memories


October 27, 2012

Amazing Black and White Photographs Document New York's Subway Commuters From the Mid-20th Century

As difficult as it is to believe, the New York City Subway has not always been the paragon of cleanliness, courtesy and efficiency currently enjoyed by several million New Yorkers and out-of-towners each and every day. In fact, for several decades in the middle of the 20th century, what was then the world’s busiest subway system was actually something of a mess.

Unlike today’s flawless high-tech marvels, cars back in the day were relatively rickety affairs, and frequently sauna-hot in the summer. Crime on trains and platforms was not unknown. Sharp-eyed travelers might occasionally spot litter. And while contemporary commuters can, and do, set their watches by trains’ arrivals and departures, the old subway’s schedules could often, to the initiated, seem arbitrary—nonexistent, even.

Through the years, LIFE photographers routinely descended into the loud, dim underworld to document the singular sights found there. In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, the likes of Cornell Capa, Ralph Crane, Eliot Elisofon and other masters found on the trains, on the waiting platforms and in all of the other areas associated with the subway a universe unto itself, where the behavior of the people below ground felt similar to—and at the same time slightly, indefinably different than—behavior encountered topside.


  1. Magnifiques mais c'est la même chose aujourd'hui !!!

  2. These are really great pictures. The feeling of loneliness among so many people. I appreciated




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