Roadside America.

John Margolies, “Hoot Owl Cafe, horizontal view, 8711 Long Beach Boulevard, Southgate” (1977), taken in Los Angeles.

John Margolies, “Duwamish Drive-in Theater, E. Marginal Way” (1980), taken in Seattle.

It’s impossible to not dream of setting off on a long road adventure while perusing the archives of the late John Margolies. Known for his photographs of America’s vernacular architecture, Margolies spent over three decades driving more than 100,000 miles with his eyes alert for strange sculptures, dynamic signs, and structures fast-disappearing from today’s landscape, from mom-and-pop shops to drive-in movie theaters. His journey culminated in the photo book, John Margolies: Roadside America, published in 2010, which presents a sweeping portrait of the nation through its roadside embellishments. While Robert Frank showed us the often aching realities of the United States in the 20th century, Margolies gifted us with all its weird and its wonderful.

And quite literally, too: in a generous gesture, he placed all his work in the public domain. Now, a little over a year after his death at the age of 76, the Library of Congress has digitized and uploaded the more than 11,000 color slides from his archives so they are more easily accessible. The effort is part of what curator Micah Messenheimer described to Hyperallergic as the Library’s “longstanding commitment to digitizing materials that exemplify American lives and experiences.”

You can read and see much more at Hyperallergic.


  1. says

    That should be a useful collection if anyone ever starts lecturing me about how tasteless some other country is. Oh, wait, no, I’m American -- that doesn’t happen.

  2. kestrel says

    Minnesota should feature prominently in this -- each small town has their very own cheesy cement or plaster statue of some odd thing. They are like giant lawn ornaments for each town. For example there is a giant Paul Bunyan statue in Akeley, MN, proudly touted as the world’s largest Paul Bunyan statue. You can even sit on his hand and have your photo taken: Then there is the giant Viking statue in Alexandria, MN. Many is the Halloween when local youth strove to make the statue, shall we say, more anatomically correct.

    I think stuff like this is hilarious and really enjoy it.

  3. quotetheunquote says

    @chigau #3:

    I can’t believe they left out Tommy Turtle, in Boissevain SK! Okay, so it’s not really that big, but compared to an actual painted turtle…

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