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Tail Lights: December 30, 2012

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Tail Lights
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Tail Lights: December 30, 2012

Bill Crittenden

The Wonders of a Digital World
The Wonders of a Digital World
Volume 1, Number 3

There are no days off for The Crittenden Automotive Library.  There was new content added and processed every day through the holiday week.  Because it was a holiday, I took a little break from the same old stuff, going in a few different directions this week with taxi cab pictures and a racing card set.  There is also a new issue of the GTR Newsletter in the Library, and for Christmas I received a $25 gift card to Half Price Books, so there should be new additions to the Reference Desk coming soon.

As I mention below in the first subsection, I took a lot of pictures of taxi cabs a few weeks ago in Chicago.  You might have also seen taxi pictures occasionally pop up in the Library if you browse around.  They're usually companies of little fame and consequence in the industry, and almost all taken within the last 1-4 years, so they aren't classic cars or anything "special" like that.

Taking pictures of taxi cabs is a great example of the wonderful things about digital photography and what we do here at The Crittenden Automotive Library.

A picture of a taxi cab from a classic era of automobiles can be interesting and useful.  Fleets of old Checker cabs on New York streets, classic Fords used as cabs, those pictures are interesting.  Of course, in the era of film photography, someone had to take those pictures, pay to develop those pictures, and then archive them, preserve them, and eventually digitize them to share them on the internet.  Understandably, this resulted in relatively few pictures taken at the times and even fewer surviving.  And as special as it is today, back then it was just a picture of a taxicab.  Who cares, right?

Digital photography is almost free.  I can take over a thousand high resolution photographs on each of my memory cards (I lost count of how many I have) and by going through a pocketful of rechargeable batteries, all of which has already been paid for, the pictures don't cost anything more than possibly a fraction of a cent in electricity for battery charging and loading them onto my computer.  I can take a thousand pictures and archive them with a million more in a hard drive the size of a medium book.  Yeah, sure, fifty years ago, using film and disposable flashbulbs, and having no free & easy way to share them, I might have been quite nuts to take all the pictures I do and all they would do is sit in my basement.  Now we can take all the pictures we want and easily preserve them until such a time as they are just as interesting and old, if not as rare, as the classic pictures are today and through the internet easily share them infinitely around the world.
So digital photography gives us the capability, and The Crittenden Automotive Library takes it from there, taking the odd obscure pictures, classifying them and uploading them.  Sure, a random cab picture from the streets of Chicago may not be special today, but think of how historic the Toyota Prius will be some day, and a surprising number of the taxis I took pictures of were Priuses.  There was also a Chevrolet HHR, minivans, and a Kia Soul.  Fifty years from now, that will be interesting, but only if someone bothers to take the pictures and save them and put them in a place that people can find them five decades from today.  That is what we are here to do.

City of Big Shoulders and Small Taxicabs

So I recently took my son on a trip to Chicago in December.  It was an "urban hike" for Cub Scout Pack 367 out of Woodstock, Illinois.  I guess when you grow up in the suburbs, it's a novel thing to hike in the woods, and when you grow up in Woodstock, it's a novel thing to hike amongst the steel and glass skyscrapers of downtown.

Of course, I brought my camera to take the vacation-type pictures of the Chicago Theater sign, and my son by the old Marshall Fields sign on what is now Macy's (a very nice store, I discovered a week later spending some time at an assignment at the Vernon Hills Macy's...Frango mint chocolates are always great and they sell Izod clothing).  But, being me with a camera, I took pictures of just about every taxicab and interesting car I could possibly get a decent picture of.  At one point, a parent behind me nudged the one next to him and said, "that's like the eighth taxi he's taken a picture of."  Actually, it was about the fifteenth, but he wasn't behind me all day.

I had so many pictures of interesting taxicabs between that trip and a short trip earlier in the fall I created a sort of Chicago Taxicab directory at http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/special/chicago_taxicabs.php .  It's not a regular directory as there is no contact information, but you can browse through the various paint schemes in alphabetical order.

In addition to the taxicabs I took a picture of a Maserati Quattroporte under a Cartier sign that came out nicely.  You can see that at http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/q/quattroporte.php  I also caught a CBS Channel 2 news van as it drove by, which is another category of vehicle I hadn't had a chance to photograph yet!  That one's buried in the Ford Econoline/E-Series page at http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/e/econoline.php

It was a cold and rainy day, so the roads were wet, there were rain drops all over the cars, but with the urban backgrounds I think they came out very well, a very different feel than a regular brochure-style shot with a spotless car on a sunny day.  But it only worked because I was in the city, these were definitely much better than a bunch of pictures from a rainy day at a Walmart parking lot.  You can see more of these pictures, and any more I may take in subsequent trips (if you're reading this in the archives at some point in the future) by searching "On the streets of Chicago, Illinois" in the site search box!

Maxx Depth

As an extension of the theme and project of creating pages and recording information on what are, in the big picture, obscure personal references, I entered into the Library a set of NASCAR racing cards.  The 1992 Maxx set, to be specific.  What makes this set interesting is the sheer depth of the 300 cards, including NASCAR Officials, broadcasters, crew chiefs, and the All Pro Pit Crew, which not only goes through all the over-the-wall positions but also includes race shop workers and truck drivers.  Not only are there over 100 more names in the People Index at http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/indices/indexpeople.php but you can go to the card set at http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/m/maxx.php and browse the list there.  Despite my highest hopes, there were no new Crittendens to be found.  The hometowns and birth dates also allowed me to greatly expand the Birthday Calendar at http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/calendar/birthdays.php
The Crittenden Automotive Library is Automotive History Beyond the FendersSM: a large collection of information relating to not only cars, trucks, and motorcycles, but also the roads they drive on, the races they compete in, cultural works based on them, government regulation of them, and the people who design, build, and drive them.  We are dedicated to the preservation and free distribution of information relating to all types of cars and road-going vehicles for those seeking the greater understanding of these very important elements of modern society, how automobiles have affected how people live around the world, or for the general study of automotive history and anthropology.  In addition to the historical knowledge, we preserve current events for future generations.

The Crittenden Automotive Library includes over 53,000 pages in books, 342,000 pages in reports, 22,000 pages in periodicals, 12,500 news & commentary stories, 2 weeks of audio, 4 days of video, 15,000 images and dozens of newsletters as well as other documents, statistics, reports, and data.  There are over 770 races' results tables broken down into individual driver histories.
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