Have you ever wondered how America travelled before airplanes? In this collection of photographs, you will find may photographs of that bygone era, when buses were the main method of transport.
Photos taken from the 1940’s by Esther Bubley show Americans travelling on buses to and from work, and between cities. During the time of rationing of gasoline and rubber, buses were used extensively by most people. Even soldiers used them as the accepted means of transport.
The collection earned Bubley the award for Best Picture Sequence in ‘News Pictures of the Year in 1948’. The pictures give us a subtle glance at family life and the racial segregation roles of the time.
This amazing collection showcases life back then, when there were less travel options. A trip from Washington DC to Pittsburgh would take about five hours, compared to a regular non stop flight which now takes an hour!
Greyhound drivers take a break between runs at the station in Columbus, Ohio. Bubley was joined by photographers Roy Stryker, Gordon Parks and John Vachon on the voyage
A sign pointing to a ‘Colored Waiting Room’ at a the Greyhound station in Rome, Georgia. It still took two decades more before racial segregation in the US was outlawed completely with the Civil Rights Act of 1964
A student waiting for the bus in a small town in Tennessee with other passengers
A daily student commuter on a Greyhound bus from Louisville to Memphis. The distance between the cities is just under 400 miles and even today is a five hour drive
A soldier sleeps on a bus from Cincinnati to Louisville. Bus travel in the US had dramatically increased with wartime rationing of rubber and gasoline meaning more people needed to travel but with less options
A packed Greyhound bus from Washington DC to Pittsburgh. The trip would have taken close to five hours by bus but now regular non-stop flights from both airports can take you to and fro in an hour
A Greyhound station in Indianapolis. A later collection of photos of the United States’s bus system earned Bubley the award for Best Picture Sequence in the Encyclopaedia Britannica/University of Missouri School of Journalism ‘News Pictures of the Year’ in 1948
A woman falls asleep while waiting for a bus at the Greyhound terminal in Pittsburgh. According to her webpage for the project she relied on two film cameras: an Ikoflex III and a Linhof Technika with a 5 1/4 inch f/4.5 Zeiss Tessar lens
Porters load luggage on a bus by chucking with one laucnhing cases in the air to the top of the bus in Chattanooga, Tennessee
A packed out Greyhound terminal in Pittsburgh. In 1943 Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and US troops were engaged in combat in Europe and Asia against Axis powers
A solemn passenger watches luggage being unloaded from a bus that broke down in a small town in Pennsylvania
An army officer clutches a baby’s hand as a bus departs from Knoxville, Tennessee for Washington, D.C
Scores of passengers lined up to board buses at the Memphis Greyhound station. Bubley’s photos of US bus travel in 1943 provide a subtle insight into family life, race segregation and traditional work roles
Two men buy Greyhound tickets in Pittsburgh. Bubley joined ordinary Americans on crowded Greyhounds and other buses through major cities and secluded villages
A black board schedule with chalk markings at a bus depot in Ohio
A young girl gleefully shows a driver her bus ticket from her mouth in Columbus, Ohio
A mother and daughter who sell pillows to travelers in Knoxville pose for Bubley’s camera
A worker cleans the wind shield of a bus at the Greyhound garage in Pittsburgh. Bubley would go onto win an honory doctorate from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1991, seven years before her death aged 77
A toddler leans out of a scratched Tennessee Coach Company bus in Knoxville
A woman hails a Macon-bound bus on a gravel highway in Georgia. In 1956 Bubley was hired by Pepsi-Cola International to cover Latin America for their company magazine Panorama. In the mid-1960s, Pan American World Airways sent her on two world tours to capture images for their corporate photographic library
A sailor and child wait for a Greyhound in Memphis. Her assignment took four weeks in total in which she captured images that document a bygone era
A worker mops a bus at the Greyhound garage in Pittsburgh. After the project Bubley moved from the OWI to work for Standard Oil where she was entrusted with documenting how the company helped the US wartime effort. The company was accused of colluding with a rival German company during the war and wanted to disprove the claims
Despite the change in jobs the snapper was still capture more poignant photos of bus travel in the US. Bubley went on another inter-state assignment taking in more bus stops and passengers. Her end product was the 1947 photo essay, Bus Story, which won numerous awards. Here a soldier sleeps in a luggage rack on a bus from Cincinnati to Louisville.
Passengers laugh during the long journey from Pittsburgh to St. Louis
Passengers wait to board a Greyhound bus in a small Pennsylvania town
Passengers wait for a bus at the Memphis terminal. Bubley was a devoted animal lover and in her later years preferred to take her dogs for walks around New York’s Central Park and take photos instead of travelling around the world with on assignments
An assortment of passengers on the Memphis-Chattanooga Greyhound bus in 1943
Passengers wait to board a bus from Knoxville, Tennessee to Washington, DC. Bubley went on to become one of the United States’s best loved photographers with her work featuring in countless exhibitions across the country. She was also chosen by UNICEF and the French government to travel to Morocco to photograph a program to treat trachoma, an infectious disease that causes blindness