A view from above: America in the ’40s and ’50s

Washington, D.C. This declassified aerial photograph shows a section of Washington, D.C., on June 3, 1940. The large grassy area is the National Mall leading to the United States Capitol building, which is the largest structure in the lower left corner of the photograph. The National Archives building, completed in 1936, is the small and solid rectangular building in the upper left of the photograph. Union Station, completed in 1908, and the railroad tracks leading to it, is the large structure in the lower right.
Grand Canyon This aerial photograph of the Grand Canyon in Arizona was taken on April 16, 1949. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the Grand Canyon a national monument in 1908. In 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service, the canyon was established as a national park. By 1949, the park was a major destination for a growing tourist industry in post-war America.
Cape Hatteras This aerial photograph of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, was taken on October 21, 1940. It shows roads, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and the small town of Buxton.
New Orleans This aerial photograph shows a section of New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 15, 1952. The city's famous French Quarter is located just above the curve of the upper bank of the Mississippi River, in the center of the photograph. A major port since the 18th century, the city's Gulf Coast location leaves it vulnerable to tropical storms.
Mount St. Helens This aerial photograph of Mount St. Helens, Washington, was taken on September 28, 1946, 34 years before the long-dormant volcano erupted with devastating fury on March 26, 1980.
Golden Gate Bridge This 1953 aerial photograph shows the Golden Gate Bridge, linking San Francisco and Marin County, California. When this photograph was taken, the bridge had been open for 16 years, and at 4,200 feet, had a longer main suspension span than any other bridge in the world.
Salt Lake City This aerial photograph shows Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 12, 1952. Built on a grid, Salt Lake City became the state capital when Utah achieved statehood in 1896. The Capitol State House, dedicated in 1916, is the large building in the middle of the photograph.
Hoover Dam Near the bottom of this aerial photograph, taken on October 30, 1955, is the Hoover Dam, which spans the Colorado River along the Nevada-Arizona border. The concrete arch-gravity dam brought water and power to arid regions of the American southwest and was considered a great engineering feat upon its dedication in 1935. Originally called Boulder Dam, it was renamed in 1947 for President Herbert Hoover, who was involved in its planning and construction while serving as Secretary of Commerce and later as President.
Pearl Harbor This aerial photograph shows the naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii (then the Territory of Hawaii), on January 17, 1941. The U.S. Navy was in the process of expanding Pearl Harbor to serve as home port for its Pacific Fleet when this photograph was taken. Just 11 months later on December 7, Japanese forces attacked here, driving the United States into World War II. Hard hit in the attack were the ships anchored along "Battleship Row" on Ford Island, which can be seen in the upper left portion of the photograph.
San Francisco This aerial photograph shows a section of San Francisco, California, and its waterfront along the bay. By the time the picture was taken on January 30, 1951, the expansion of shipbuilding and other wartime defense industries had greatly boosted the city's population. The curving pier in the middle of the photograph is the Municipal Pier; to the right is the city's famous Fisherman's Wharf. Partially seen on the left are the grounds of the Presidio, a former military installation, which is currently part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Statue of Liberty In the center of this aerial photograph of the New York Harbor, taken on August 19, 1944, is Bedloe's Island, now called Liberty Island and the home of the Statue of Liberty. The statue, dedicated in 1886, stands on a massive pedestal inside an old military fortification on the island. Look closely for the outline of the fort's 11-point star-shaped walls around the base of the statue. The Ellis Island immigration station lies to the right.
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