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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

Imagine stumbling upon a hidden treasure trove of photos, offering a glimpse into a bygone era. That’s exactly what happened to Jan Wein in the 1980s, during his time living in Manhattan. Back then, trash day was an adventure, often revealing discarded gems. One lucky day, Jan hit the jackpot – a collection of Kodachrome slides capturing New York City in the 1950s and 60s. The photographer remains a mystery, the slides unmarked and silent about their origin.

These weren’t just any photos. Kodachrome, with its rich, vibrant colors, was special. It was the first commercially successful color film, loved by photographers for its ability to preserve moments with stunning accuracy.  And here it was, showcasing a New York City that was both familiar and different.

The photos transport us back to a time of bustling streets filled with classic cars, iconic yellow taxis, and fashion trends that scream “retro” today. We see towering skyscrapers under construction, reaching for the sky alongside established landmarks like the Empire State Building.

People are everywhere, going about their daily lives. Men in sharp suits and fedoras stride purposefully, while women in elegant dresses and hats stroll with grace. Children play in parks and on sidewalks, their laughter echoing through the decades. These snapshots capture the energy and diversity of a city that never sleeps.

There are glimpses into everyday life: a shoeshine boy diligently working on a customer’s footwear, a vendor selling hot dogs from a street cart, families enjoying picnics in Central Park. These small moments remind us that while times change, some things remain constant – the human desire for connection, leisure, and a good hot dog.

 We also see historical moments frozen in time. A photo of Times Square ablaze with lights advertising Broadway shows and the latest news headlines. Another image shows a crowd gathered around a television set in a store window, their faces reflecting the gravity of a news report. These glimpses remind us of the

#1 Times Square, 1958.

Times Square, 1958.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#2 First Street and First Avenue.

First Street and First Avenue.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#3 Al’s Bar, 1954.

Al’s Bar, 1954.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#4 36th Street and 7th Avenue.

36th Street and 7th Avenue.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#5

A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#6 Financial District, view south on Cliff Street, 1967.

Financial District, view south on Cliff Street, 1967.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#7 Sullivan Street celebrating the Festival of St Anthony.

Sullivan Street celebrating the Festival of St Anthony.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#8 Loews Movie Theater, 72nd Street, 1960.

Loews Movie Theater, 72nd Street, 1960.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#9 Fifth Avenue at 44th Street.

Fifth Avenue at 44th Street.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#10 Guggenheim Museum soon after it opened, 1960.

Guggenheim Museum soon after it opened, 1960.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#11 Midtown at 5:00 PM, 1980s.

Midtown at 5:00 PM, 1980s.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#12 USS Stockham, Navy Destroyer.

USS Stockham, Navy Destroyer.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#13 Schmattes – W 36th Street.

Schmattes – W 36th Street.

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#14 A Sunday painter in Central Park, 1950s.

A Sunday painter in Central Park, 1950s.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#15 Riverview of Manhattan.

Riverview of Manhattan.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#16 The Lehigh Salvage Co.

The Lehigh Salvage Co.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#17

A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#18 Winter – Murphy Memorial Flagpole, Union Place, 1950s.

Winter – Murphy Memorial Flagpole, Union Place, 1950s.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#19 New York World Telegram.

New York World Telegram.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#20 Fifth Avenue – Midtown.

Fifth Avenue – Midtown.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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#21 Ice Skating at 30 Rockefeller Center, 1958.

Ice Skating at 30 Rockefeller Center, 1958.

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A Colorful Peek into the Past: Lost Photos of 1950s & 60s New York City

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Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

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