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What Oakland looked like in the 1940s Through these Fascinating Historical Photos

World War II brought rapid development and economic growth to Oakland. The economic boom of the War brought relief for many parts of the United States after the Great Depression of the 1930s, and Oakland’s economy and industrial sector also benefited.

Oakland During WWII

During World War II, Oakland was a major centre of goods production because of its productive port, the largest seaport in Northern California, and its strategic location at the terminus of major rail lines.  Oakland’s shipbuilding and canning industries produced goods at record speeds during the War, which provided tremendous new jobs. It led to a population boost in the 1950s: almost 100,000 people moved to Oakland between 1940-1945, and the 1945 special census showed the city had 405,301 people.

The wartime expansion of Oakland increased the city’s population as well as its diversity. Black residents of Oakland made up 3% of the population before the War. With a massive influx of black and white shipyard workers from the Deep South, Oakland’s African-American population grew to 12% of its total. During this period, the federal government created more than 30,000 public housing units in the East Bay, housing 90,000 war workers. As black and white shipyard workers flooded south from the deep South, segregationist attitudes such as Jim Crow spread to sections of the country previously free from it.

Oakland After the WWII

Jobs became scarce for Oakland as soon as the shipbuilding and automobile industries disappeared after World War II. Black and white residents with higher incomes left after the War to move to neighbouring cities. After World War II, black Americans constituted about 12% of Oakland’s population, which continued to rise after the War. Racial tensions also increased. Many of the Oakland Police Department’s white officers in the late 1940s were openly racist. Their repressive tactics exacerbated racial tensions; the expanded black population and changing racial attitudes demanded their recruitment.

During the first week of December 1946, workers in Oakland were one of six cities nationwide participating in a General Strike to prevent management from repeating the Union Busting that followed the first World War. It was one of the most significant strikes in American history.

Below are some stunning historical photos that show Oakland in the 1940s.

#1 Corner of Fruitvale Avenue and Hopkins Street/US Route 50 (later MacArthur Boulevard), 1940s

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#2 Farnham building, west side of Clay Street between 10th and 11th Streets, 1940s

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#3 Newly constructed Lockwood Gardens public housing development in the Havenscourt, 1940s

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#4 Looking east along East 12th Street at 14th Avenue in the Clinton, 1940s

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#5 Looking at houses on Courtland Avenue from the corner of High Street, 1940s

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#7 Young women hanging out their laundry on the roof of the YWCA (Young Woman Christian Association) ‘Blue Triangle Club’ in Oakland, 1940s.

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#8 Young women sunbathing on the roof of the YWCA (Young Woman Christian Association) ‘Blue Triangle Club’ in Oakland, 1940s.

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#9 Car Traffic on a Flooded Road in Oakland, 1940s.

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#11 Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland, 1942.

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#12 I Am an American’ posted above a grocery store, Oakland, 1942.

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#13 7th Avenue and Broadway in Oakland, 1942.

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#14 The Fox Orpheum Theater in Oakland featuring a sneak preview of ‘Sitting Pretty’ and ‘The Tender Years,’ Oakland, 1948.

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#15 Stacks of oil barrels palletized at the Naval Supply Depot in Oakland, 1943.

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#16 Incoming and outgoing freight is piled high on the wharf of the Port of Oakland Outer Harbor, 1947.

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#17 El Rey Theatre at 3520 San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, California, 1940s

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#18 Construction of the Oakland Naval Supply Depot, 1940s

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#19 Linden branch of the YWCA in Oakland, California, 1940s

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#20 Fox Oakland Theater on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California showing banners, 1940s

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#21 Entrance of Fox Oakland Theatre on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California, 1940s

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#22 Looking SE from Willow and 10th Streets, January 10, 1940

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#23 View of Oakland Municipal Auditorium from Lake Merritt, 1949

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#24 Looking SW from 13th and Poplar Streets, 1940s

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#25 Fenton’s Ice Cream, 195 41st Street, near Howe Street, 1940s

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#26 Exterior of Tower Theatre at 5110 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California, 1940s

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#27 Senator Theater at 3856 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California, 1940s

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#28 Exterior of Esquire Theatre on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, California, 1940s

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#29 Park Boulevard near Beaumont Avenue looking east toward the hills, 1940s

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#30 C.J. Bowers Union Oil service station, possibly at 3761 Park Boulevard, 1940s

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#31 SW corner of 12th and Washington, 1940s

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#32 Engine Company 22, Oakland Fire Department, 1940s

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#33 Key System “C” line streetcar on Piedmont Avenue near Ridgeway Avenue, 1940s

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#34 Vacant storefront with parked car on College Avenue near Kales Avenue, 1940s

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#35 Key System streetcar #359 heading south into the Rockridge district along College, 1940s

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#36 Key Streetcar #993 heading south College Avenue between Hudson Street and Lawton, 1940s

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#37 Southwest corner of Washington and 9th Streets in downtown Oakland, 1940s

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#38 Hopkins Street/US Route 50 (later MacArthur Boulevard) looking east towards intersection, 1940s

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#39 Harrison Street at Grand Avenue in the Adams Point district of Oakland, 1940s

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#40 Electric streetcar heading south on 38th Avenue at Allendale Avenue, 1940s

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#41 Temescal Avenue looking north from around 47th Street in the Temescal district, 1940s

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#42 Newly completed channelization islands ease the flow of traffic at East 18th, 1940s

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#43 Oakland City Hall with view of San Pablo Avenue, 1940s

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#44 Lobby of Paramount Theatre on Broadway in Oakland, 1940s

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#45 Stage of the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California as seen from balcony, 1940s

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#46 Sterling Furniture, west side of Broadway between 17th and 19th Streets, 1940s

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#47 Castlemont High School and East Oakland looking west from an adjacent hill, 1940s

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#48 Apartment block, Seventh St., West Oakland, 1940s

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#49 Architectural drawing showing the planned layout of the Lockwood Gardens public housing, 1940s

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#51 Interior of Fox Oakland Theatre in Oakland, California with candy bar attendant, 1940s

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#52 Downtown Oakland, c.1945, on the corner of 14th and Webster Streets, 1940s

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#53 N. W. Corner, 11th and Washington, 1940s

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#54 Passengers boarding the Key System number 10 streetcar on Piedmont Avenue, 1940s

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#55 A street car rolls past the East Bay Street Railways Ltd. car, 1940s

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#56 W. T. Grant Co. building, south side of 13th Street between Washington, 1940s

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#57 Moise-Schlessinger building, northwest corner of 11th and Washington Streets, 1940s

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#58 Borland building, southeast corner of 12th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland, 1940s

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#59 American Furniture Co. building, northwest corner of Clay and 11th Streets, 1940s

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#60 Zukor’s, Inc. building, west side of Washington Street between 13th and 14th, 1940s

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#61 Owl Drug Co. (J.C. Penney Co.) building, southeast corner of 12th, 1940s

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#62 Hastings building, east side of Broadway between 15th and 16th Streets in …

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#63 Northwest corner of Broadway and 11th Streets in downtown Oakland, 1940s

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#64 Miller-Collsichonn-Westdahl building, southeast corner of 11th and Washington Streets, 1940s

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#65 Borland building, southeast corner of 12th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland, 1940s

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#66 City Market building, east side of Washington Street between 12th and 13th, 1940s

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#67 Lurie building, north side of 12th Street between Broadway and Franklin Streets, 1940s

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#68 Cochran and Celli building, south side of 12th Street between Alice, 1940s

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#69 Plaza building, northwest corner of 15th and Jefferson Streets in downtown Oakland, 1940s

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#70 Schwartz & Grodin building, southwest corner of 12th Street and Broadway, 1940s

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#71 Foot of Broadway entrance to “Bow & Bell”, 1940s

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#72 Southwest corner of 12th Street and Broadway, 1940

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#73 Northwest corner of 12th and Franklin Streets, 1940

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#74 Southeast corner of 11th and Washington Streets, 1940

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#75 North side of 12th Street between Washington and Clay Streets, 1940

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#76 Foothill Boulevard near 22nd Avenue in the San Antonio district of Oakland, 1940s

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#77 Lockwood Gardens public housng development under construction in the Havenscourt, 1940s

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#78 Clausen House at 88 Vernon Street in the Adams Point district, 1940s

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#79 Lockwood Gardens public housng development under construction, looking south east, 1940s

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#80 Courtland Avenue looking toward Foothill Boulevard in the Fairfax district of Oakland, 1940s

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#81 Aerial view, looking south from around 16th Avenue, of the Nimitz Freeway, 1940s

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#82 Looking down Courtland Avenue from the corner of High Street and Ygnacio, 1940s

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#83 Two policeman on motorcycles escort cars eastbound on East 12th Street, 1940s

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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