See local history come to life in these vintage films and old photos of Atlanta, Georgia. Just press the white arrow in the centre of the image to start the short film.
Early images of Atlanta
Old photos of Atlanta (Georgia)1863-1909, posted to YouTube by oldstuff4all
Some of the earliest photos shown in this short film were taken during the American Civil War of the 1860s. The streets were still unpaved and people lived hard lives.
Old Photos of a growing city
Atlanta.Georgia, posted to YouTube by ivard1
These photos from the Atlanta Time Machine show dozens of locations across various decades of the twentieth century. Then a recent image of the same location appears, showing how much the buildings and streets have changed.
Inside The Federal Prison in 1957
” THE ROAD BACK ” 1960s U.S. FEDERAL PRISONS DOCUMENTARY ATLANTA, GEORGIA JAIL 17894, posted to YouTube by Periscope Film
The calendar in this film is 1957, and at this point the prison was 55 years into its existence.
Prisoners now see relatives for up to two hours a month, a great improvement from when no personal visits were allowed. They wear a simple uniform, no longer the prison stripes.
A surprising number of important criminals, public officials and religious leaders had served time within these prison walls. The prison magazine was edited by a car dealer turned armed robber.
2600 male prison inmates were held in a site constructed for half that number, each cell now holding 8 prisoners.
Each new arrival has a meeting with the vocational trainer. If they haven’t got an occupation, they are trained in what seems a well resourced programme. Even oil painting and worm farming is supported. Every year, 24 well trained bricklayers go out into the world to make a decent living.
There’s regular mention of inmates with disability, and their attempts to overcome them. Then we are introduced to a plastic surgeon who successfully fixed a harelip for a man who subsequently led a law abiding and productive life.
After learning about past escaped prisoners, we see a man coming to the end of his sentence. He receives a new outfit, a train ticket and $30.
We are then introduced to the current prison warden, Fred Wilkinson. In World War II he was a marine lieutenant who landed at The Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945). A grenade blew away part of his left jaw and three machine gun slugs shortened his left arm. So he could no longer enjoy amateur boxing, but still enjoyed playing tennis.
Highs and Lows
Men could apply for parole after serving one third of their sentence. But the Narcotic Act 1956 meant those convicted twice of narcotics handling had to serve their full sentence. Those serving a life sentence were eligible for parole after 15 years.
One inmate worked in the prison farm’s piggery. On his release, he recruited some friends and then broke in to the prison farm, stealing $300 of pigs from the piggery. As a result, all prisoners would grunt at him in the prison dinner hall.
The prison warden explains that his philosophy was to prepare inmates for a life outside and reentry to society. Next we learn about the charitable and religious works undertaken by inmates. This includes participation in medical trials for malaria and schizophrenia.
Noise Pollution 1974
Noise Pollution Atlanta Georgia 1974, posted to YouTube by markdcatlin
A 15 year old high school student recorded sound level meter readings to assess noise pollution downtown in 1974. Even the suburbs had overhead noise pollution from airplanes. She explains why noise is a problem and what she is trying to do about it.
Lots of people and places appear in this film, along with the constant city noise.
1980s Video Postcard
Atlanta in the 80s (1), posted to YouTube by tightfistedtitans
Take a trip back to the 1980s with “Atlanta – a video postcard”. At the time, Atlanta was home to the tallest hotel in the world, and a lot of glass lifts.
1980s Atlanta Expressway
Late 1980s Atlanta Georgia, posted to YouTube by Thekinolibrary
The expressway takes centre stage in this footage from the 1980s. Downtown buildings form an impressive backdrop.
1989 Drive Through Atlanta
Driving through Atlanta Georgia 1989, posted to YouTube by NothingButHistory
This footage was captured in 1989, traveling on Interstate 75 to Knoxville. It’s almost 20 minutes, and the traffic flows freely!
1991 Drive Through Atlanta
Atlanta by car 1991, posted to YouTube by dirtypairXX
Driving through the busy streets of downtown Atlanta in 1991, prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics. This is traveling from downtown, north to midtown.
Lots of local shops and downtown buildings appear, including Jen’s Wigs at 1:04 on the left, and the infamous Backstreet nightclub at 4:48 on the right.
At the junctions, dozens of pedestrians are seen clearly enough to recognise if you know them.
At the end of the video is a large derelict house. The Margaret Mitchell house had suffered a devastating fire. One of its exterior walls was missing, so the rooms could be seen from the street. It sat in this terrible state for many years, before the site was finally redeveloped into a new museum house.
Atlanta History Facebook Groups
Discover more fascinating memories, photos and films with these Facebook groups.
or discover more local history videos of the USA