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February 09, 2017

Travel back in time with decades-old photos of snow removal in Philadelphia

History Snow
SnowArchives_BroadWalnut City of Philadelphia, Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

Men load snow into the bed of a truck.

Dread shoveling your car out of its parking spot? At least you're not stuck with the more monumental task of digging out the entire city. 

The region received its first significant winter storm Thursday, with some northern suburbs seeing as much as 8 inches of snow.

And while it's certainly not the 20-plus inches Philadelphia saw just last January, the 30 inches of snow in 1996 or even the 19 inches that fell in April 1915 – it was enough white stuff to send snow-removal crews across the region scrambling into action.

While there have been technological improvements, the snowplowing process in the city largely remains the same as ever – push it into piles, scoop it into a truck and haul it away.

With the help of the archives of PhillyHistory.org, we did some digging of our own through old photos of snow and snow removal across Philadelphia from 1914 through 1961, when a snowplow cost the city about $61,000 and drove at 30 miles per hour, according to the history site.

Independence Hall, March 1914

Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

Men shoveling snow at Independence Hall.


South Broad and Sansom streets, March 1914

Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

People traveling through snow.


South Broad Street, April 1915

City of Philadelphia, Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

Men load snow into the bed of a truck.


North Broad Street and JFK Boulevard, January 1957

City of Philadelphia, Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

Snow is cleared close to City Hall.


City Hall, January 1957

Office of the City Representative/PhillyHistory.org

A man watches snow as it's piled into the bed of a snow-removal truck.


15th Street and JFK Boulevard, January 1958

City of Philadelphia, Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

Snow-removal equipment stored in Center City.


Academy and Red Lion roads, February 1958

Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

A snow truck plows through several feet of snow.


Chestnut and 23rd streets, January 1961

Office of the City Representative/PhillyHistory.org

A man operates a snowplow in front of what is now an office space for Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.


Market Street and Schuylkill Avenue, January 1961

City of Philadelphia, Department of Records/PhillyHistory.org

A plow truck dumps snow off the Schuylkill River Bridge.


Market and Juniper streets, January 1961

City of Philadelphia, Department of Records/John McWhorter, PhillyHistory.org

Men removing snow with plow trucks.


Ben Franklin Bridge, February 2017

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

DRPA plow trucks coat the Benjamin Franklin Bridge deck and plaza roadway near Franklin Square with salt on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.


Independence Mall, February 2017

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A National Park Service employee clears a walkway on Independence Mall in Old City on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.