DOCUMERICA: So, This is What the 70s REALLY Looked Like

subwayI’ve been spending a bunch of time lately trying to explain the 1970s to my daughter. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and have been in awe at how different a childhood my daughter is having than my own. And while explaining how things once were, I find that it is making me feel very old but also kind of nostalgic. It was such a different time; you could play outside without your folks keeping a close eye on you, you could only watch cartoons on Saturday mornings, phones had to be plugged into the wall, and candy bars were quarter. Yup, that’s how old people talk.

My memories of the ’70s are pretty fuzzy, but this collection of photographs from National Archives is a trip back in time. These stunning pictures were taken for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to illustrate the era’s environmental problems and achievements as part of their Project DOCUMERICA (1971-1977). The National Archives in Washington, D.C.,  will be having a show entitled,”Searching for the Seventies” highlighting these images and it will be up from March 8th to September 8th.

Here are some of the images from their vast archive that really capture the 70s in the good and in the bad and in its always colorful ways.  Check it out here:

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  • Smoke 1 of 26
    Smoke
    Kids play outside in front of a Tacoma factory that spread arsenic and lead residue. August 1972.
    Photographer: Gene Daniels
  • Parking Lot 2 of 26
    Parking Lot
    "Downtown Parking Lot 08/1973." It's wall to wall cars in Cincinnati.
    Photographer: Tom Hubbard
  • North Philly 3 of 26
    North Philly
    "North Philadelphia Children, August 1973." A great shot of a group of very happy kids.
    Photographer: Dick Swanson
  • FIll Up on Salvation 4 of 26
    FIll Up on Salvation
    "Gasoline Stations Abandoned During the Fuel Crisis in the Winter of 1973-74 Were Sometimes Used for Other Purposes. This Station at Potlatch, Washington, West of Olympia Was Turned Into a Religious Meeting Hall. Signs Painted on the Gas Pumps Proclaim "Fill Up with the Holy Ghost... And Salvation." 04/1974." Pretty eerie.
    Photographer: David Falconer
  • Cooling Off in Philly 5 of 26
    Cooling Off in Philly
    "Cooling Off In One Of The Fountains Around The Philadelphia Museum Of Art, August 1973." A Philadelphia story.
    Photographer: Dick Swanson
  • Gas Station Workers 6 of 26
    Gas Station Workers
    "Interior of a Local Gas Station in Leakey, Texas, During the Noon Hour, near San Antonio, 05/1973"
    A trio of gas stations workers taking a break. Notice the big boar's head on the wall.
    Photographer: Marc St. Gil
  • Clutter 7 of 26
    Clutter
    "Billboards and Advertising Clutter Roadside, 06/1972."
    One thing that didn't fade away were the roadside signs, they are as common as ever.
    Photographer: Marc St. Gil
  • Staying Cool 8 of 26
    Staying Cool
    "Public Playground on the Charles River, near Soldiers Field Road 06/1973." Playing in water never gets old.
    hotographer:Ernst Halberstadt
  • Trash 9 of 26
    Trash
    "Trash and Old Tires Litter the Shore at the Middle Branch of Baltimore Harbor, 01/1973." A sad sight.
    Photographer: Jim Pickerell
  • School 10 of 26
    School
    "Sandy Hook School Children Line Up Outside Marine Biology Laboratory at the Spermacetti Cove Nature Center 05/1973" (Jersey City)
    There is something about photos from this time, they have that odd hue.
    Photographer: Arthur Tress
  • Parade 11 of 26
    Parade
    "Participant in a Kiddies Parade, an Annual Event Held Early in the Evening During the Summer in New Ulm, Minnesota. The Youngsters and Parents Make All of Their Own Costumes and Floats.
    Photographer: Flip Schulke
  • Far-Out Style 12 of 26
    Far-Out Style
    "Far-Out Style Setters Groove to Music of Fountain Square Band 06/1973"
    These two dudes in Cincinnati really showed off that perfect 70s style.
    Photographer: Tom Hubbard
  • Old-Timers 13 of 26
    Old-Timers
    "W.G. Leistikon, 70; and John Ricks, 87, in Front of the Local Drugstore. Stumps in Front of Store Are Reserved for the "Old-Timers" 11/1972." Such an iconic American look.
    Photographer: Marc St. Gil
  • Illegal Dumping 14 of 26
    Illegal Dumping
    "Illegal Dumping Area off the New Jersey Turnpike, Facing Manhattan Across the Hudson River. Nearby, to the South, Is the Landfill Area of the Proposed Liberty State Park, 03/1973." Quite a different view than there is today.
    Photographer: Gary Miller
  • No Gas 15 of 26
    No Gas
    "Away From the Freeway, Many Portland Service Stations Carry Signs Like This." This photo was from Portland, Oregon and was a sign of the massive gas shortage that hit the US in the 70s.
  • A Girl and Her Doll 16 of 26
    A Girl and Her Doll
    This doll was standard issue for 1973, but seems pretty bizarre looking these days.
    Photographer: Charles O'Rear
  • Early Electric Cars! 17 of 26
    Early Electric Cars!
    "Exhibit at the First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development Held at the Marriott Motor Inn, Ann Arbor Vehicles and Hardware Were Assembled at the EPA Ann Arbor Laboratory. Part of the Exhibit Was Held in the Motel Parking Lot General Motors Urban Electric Car Gets Battery Charge. in the Background (Left) Is the Ebs Electric "Sundancer" 10/1973." Amazing that it has taken this long for the technology to be accepted.
    Photographer: Frank Lodge
  • Wrapper Art 18 of 26
    Wrapper Art
    "Arkansas--Fort Smith, 05/1972." These two kids created quite an impression candy and gum wrapper braid. Do kids even do that anymore?
    Photographer: Jim Olive
  • Fight 19 of 26
    Fight
    "Children in Fort Smith Are Learning That Protecting the Environment Will Take More Than Awareness."
    An image from Fort Smith. And still, 40 years later, we are all still fighting for our world.
    Photographer: Jim Olive
  • Tire Fun 20 of 26
    Tire Fun
    "Campers in Garner State Park, 07/1972." A very cool shot.
    Photographer: Marc St. Gil
  • Princess Theaters 21 of 26
    Princess Theaters
    "Movie Theatre 06/1973" (New Hampshire). An odd name for an adult theater.
    Photographer: Charles Steinhacker,
  • Car Boy 22 of 26
    Car Boy
    "Young Rial Redding, third generation of Reddings who have ranched in Sarpy Basin, joins the resistance movement. The Reddings have refused to sell to the Westmoreland Coal Company, 06/1973."
    Photographer: Boyd Norton
  • The Store 23 of 26
    The Store
    A man in Texas minds his store.
  • Relaxing 24 of 26
    Relaxing
    This man took a moment to relax by his car.
  • Subway 25 of 26
    Subway
    "Subway Car. 05/1973." A very New York City image.
    Photographer: Erik Calonius
  • Crossing the Road 26 of 26
    Crossing the Road
    "Crossing The Painted Road Which Extends East From The Philadelphia Museum Of Art, August 1973."
    Photographer: Dick Swanson
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Photo Source: Flickr/National Archives

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