As the archives assistant at the PWPL Local History Center, I have been digitally scanning photographs from one of our collections, the Mason Collection, which consists of nearly 20,000 images about Port Washington. Of all the images I have seen so far in the collection none has captured my attention more than this dramatic scene of a wrecked automobile from January 1, 1958. To the viewer today, more than 60 years after the crash, this image brings to mind several questions. How did such a beautiful looking car meet such an unfortunate fate? Was the snow and ice on the ground that day a factor in the collision? And what kind of car is this? An archivist looks for clues to answer questions such as these. As my knowledge of antiques is limited, I went to a friend with some knowledge of cars to find out the make and model. He took some guesses but ultimately brought a copy of the photo to his mechanic, who happens to be an antique car aficionado. The mechanic examined the front hood ornament and knew immediately that it was a Pontiac Chieftain. After matching the Mason photo with a few photos online, he determined that it was a 1951 model. The headlights, shape, and lines of the car confirmed this. I am looking forward to learning more from this project and will be selecting future favorites in the months to come.
Crash Course: Mason Collection