Road Trips

The same scene on the Ohio River in Indiana, 60 years apart

My wife and I still own too much stuff after four years of marriage. We went on a jag recently to rearrange the entire downstairs of our home, along the way shedding some things we don’t need anymore.

Emptying a drawer, I came upon a stack of old postcards I bought early in my road-trip hobby. They depict roadside scenes all over Indiana, but mostly on the Michigan and National Roads. I don’t need these postcards anymore. I scanned them all, and sent them to a fellow I know who collects postcards just like these.

Old postcards are a great way to see what the old roads and the surrounding environment used to look like. Sometimes places look very different, and sometimes they don’t. The postcard above is probably from the 1940s, of a scene just west of Leavenworth, Indiana, on State Road 62. (The postcard says this road is also US 460, but US 460 was removed from Indiana in 1976.)

Remarkably, some time before I bought that postcard I made a photo from the same place. I stepped over the steel guardrail and down the bank a little for my photograph, but as you can see the mighty Ohio and the surrounding terrain still look much the same.

Ohio River, from IN SR 62, Leavenworth, IN
Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, Fujicolor 200, 2006

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25 thoughts on “The same scene on the Ohio River in Indiana, 60 years apart

  1. Tracking and photographing then comparing “then and now” views is always a very entertaining pasttime. Thanks for these well-done views.

    In addition to the island, it also looks like an earthen dam across the Ohio in the postcard view, something that is very hard to believe.

    • The crazy thing about this is that I made my photo, and some years later got the postcard!

      I bet the island and the dam were drawn in, and were never there in real life.

      • I think you’re correct. They do look drawn in, and I did a little historical digging and found nothing about a dam (and a lock set would have been required) in that area.

        • I can’t believe the engagement with this post, which I wrote in July and kept deferring for stuff I thought was more interesting. Anyway: as you know, someone found info about both the island and the dam.

  2. I love old postcards like these. I got a bunch of them after my father died – he collected postcards as a kid and family friends used to send them to him from places all over. I have a lot featuring long-gone hotels. I really need to do just as you are doing – scan them and find them a home.

  3. DougD says:

    Fun! I always like then and now comparisons. Somehow I find it comforting when a scene hasn’t completely changed in the last 50 years.

  4. Andy Hudson says:

    That’s amazing that you took the photo from the exact position as the postcard long before you’d ever acquired the postcard!
    I love old postcards as well. I have a book titled Wish You Were Here that is full of pictures of old postcards, mostly hotels and motels. Some of these old places are gone, some still remain, and it’s pretty fun to use Google Earth to find “now” images for the areas depicted in the book.
    Another interesting thing about a lot of these old postcards is that they sometimes look like they are illustrations, but they’re actually photographs. The process of printing these was developed by a German immigrant named Curt Teich. He created a process that used black and white halftone plates and added color through lithography.
    I don’t have a huge collection. I mainly look for vintage postcards of places I’ve actually visited. This keeps the collection from getting out of control.

  5. TR says:

    According to a historical aerial photographs, the island was real and was still there at least as late as 1969. (It also appears on an aerial taken in 1955.) It was gone by 1998.

    The dam (#44) was real, too, built in 1925. (Don’t know when it was removed.) You can still visit the old valve house.

  6. Mike Adkins says:

    If you look closely at the ‘now’ shot, you can make out where the dam once stood–a ‘line’ across the river.

      • Zooming in on the River on GoogleMaps I believe one can see the foundation of the former dam. Searching on “Ohio River Lock 44” (thanks to TR for identifying it as Lock 44) proved to be the key to unlocking that mystery online. As best I can discern it would have been dismantled in the 70s after the current Cannelton dam/locks were put into operation; I was unable to find any photographs online of the dismantling process, to my surprise.

  7. What’s really interesting is that your focal length was just about the same field of view that the artist used in the painting.

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