Category: Motor vehicles

Abie’s 1939 Mercury

Your blogger will go out on a limb and presume that these photos were taken in southern California in 1939. The car has a license plate and aftermarket “flipper” hubcaps so it isn’t brand new from the dealer in these shots but I’d like to believe that the photos were taken within a few weeks of taking delivery. Owning a convertible Mercury was a pretty spiffy way for a young man to show the world that he was doing well. Did he also own the boarding house or was he renting a room there so he could afford the car? We’ll probably never know.

’39 De Soto at Carthay Circle movie premiere…maybe…um, no

“I don’t think they actually shot this at Carthay Circle – that tented walkway was much longer and I doubt that neon sign was green and pink, but for the uninitiated, it certainly looks like the real thing.”

Martin Turnbull, expert on the golden age of Hollywood, posted this on his facebook page (link is below). He has written some excellent historical fiction novels about this time and has a lot of interesting posts on his page.

Image and excerpt from .

Learn more about the Carthay Circle movie theater here: .

Keystone Cops in 1939 film


Image: photographer/source not identified, probably was a studio promotional photo

In what is probably a publicity still for the Hollywood Cavalcade movie, the Keystone Cops emerge from between two trolley cars in a “tight squeeze” auto that has been specially modified. Most likely, the movie showed them riding on a full-width car as they approached the trolleys then switched to this one as they departed. After editing, it would look like their car had been squeezed between the trolleys. The trolleys are from the Los Angeles Railway and the location may have be on 2nd St. near the Subway Terminal.

Aug. 10, 2020 update: […location] was on Douglas Street at Ridge Way about a block north of Edgeware Road in Los Angeles.*

Normally you wouldn’t find the silent-era Keystone Cops appearing in a movie as late as 1939 but Hollywood Cavalcade depicts the transition time from silent to “talkie” films. Learn more about the film at .

“The Keystone Cops (often spelled “Keystone Kops”) are fictional, humorously incompetent policemen featured in silent film slapstick comedies produced by Mack Sennett for his Keystone Film Company between 1912 and 1917.” Excerpt from . See the link to learn more about them.

On this day in 1939, this photo was approved by the Advertising Advisory Council. The full name was Advertising Advisory Council of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc. that decreed that “only such advertising or publicity material or trailers, approved by such Council shall be used in advertising and exploiting” a movie that had been approved for release. This was part of the movie industry’s self-policing practices in response to pressure from some members of the public and governments regarding the moral content of films.

Watch a 31 second video of this scene from the movie :


* Thanks to the Ralph Cantos update here: that shows a different pose of the Keystone Cops at the same location. Thanks, too, to John Bengtson of for his assistance in providing similar photos, one of which showed a street sign that wasn’t visible in other pictures. And thanks to Steve Crise, Los Angeles trolley historian and co-author of this “then and now” book on PE red cars who may use this blog photo in his upcoming “then and now” book on Los Angeles Railway cars.

Scooters from Inglewood


Image: 1938 or 1939 scooter from

“While Foster [Salsbury] had a marketing hit on his hands with the 1937 Aero, Foster and his team kept innovating new approaches to make the scooters easier and better to ride. Foster’s biggest innovations hit in 1938 and 1939. He and his team innovated the starting clutch, which made it easier to start the scooter and keep the engine running even when the scooter came to a stop. So you didn’t have to restart the scooter at every stop sign and red light. He and his team also innovated the variable speed or automatic transmission, which was an incredible breakthrough – something that Vespas would not have until decades later. With the variable drive transmission, the rider doesn’t need to shift gears using a hand-lever clutch and a twist grip. The variable drive transmission made riding a scooter MUCH safer and easier.”

Excerpt from Salsbury Scooter Scrapbooks image link above. There is a tremendous amount about the Salsbury scooters at that link. Later, there was a new owner and a factory in Pomona, CA.