Lack of Contrails in Old Photos of Chicago

Found a posting of some fabulous old photos (1940's-1960's) of Downtown Chicago. Most of these don't seem to be art pics, but rather snaps of the city. Taking a quick glance through them I could find no obvious plane trail lines like you see today. Some of the skies show smog from industry, but no 21st century plane muck-ups, as far as I can tell. My own photos of the downtown area in the 1990's also have no plane lines.

According to the idea that the more airplanes in the sky, the more contrails you are going to see, I would think that by the 1960's contrails would show up frequently in photos, but none here.


Senior Member.
whats interesting to me is even though there is so much more photography in this century (and high digital cameras can capture fainter trails old cameras like mine don't pick up) , it's still pretty rare to find a pic with contrails if you just google a location.


Senior Member.
If you are thumbing through your old (1960's) family photos for likely they were taken on "instamatics".....which had boosted contrast, thereby making the skies darn near white most of the time.


Senior Member.
According to the idea that the more airplanes in the sky, the more contrails you are going to see, I would think that by the 1960's contrails would show up frequently in photos, but none here.

I do not think they would show up frequently in photos. Pre-digital photography was much more expensive and time consuming than in 21st century. There were fewer cameras, fewer shots per camera, with the most shots being carefully selected. Even in 1990s, when the machines for film development and photo printing became widely available in many shops, people still were economical with their holiday shots.


Senior Member.
I saw at least one instance of what some believers would call "HAARP" activity (mamatus clouds) and also the cirrus. In manyof the photos the sky is white or otherwise blown out.


New Member
All of this frequency of occurrence is a red herring. It is logical obfuscation. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs since the early 70s and have always been obsessed with determining the direction of planes 'comings and goings' according to the trail they left in the sky. But, my story is as useless as anyone else's because Contrails are a scientifically sound phenomenon, and that is where it ends.

Mick, you should market some 'flash cards', like business card size, regarding the science of contrail formation, for those of us who are tired of explaining, to hand out to [chemtrail believers]

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Mick West

Staff member
Regarding the low contrast skies, sometimes it's possible to get a bit more detail out of them:

But I really would not expect many contrails at all in the 1960s Chicago. It was major hub, so it was a destination and an origin, not that much overhead traffic back then. Really not that much traffic at all.


Senior Member.
Most of my family photos were of the Instamatic kind, with 110 film cartridges.....or the miraculous "Polaroid".
Nearly all of my family album pics look like this.....with white or gray skies.
Nobody in my family had an SLR camera with the better film, and the ability to adjust exposure. Instamatics were meant to be able to shoot in average bright light, or with those flash cubes for indoor shots..
Born and raised in So. California, I have to assume many of these skies were blue...not gray.
(in the color photos)

(early 60's....B&W....high contrast, no detail in sky)

(late 60's.....color, high contrast, no detail in sky)
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Senior Member. because there is no/little detail in the sky, neither proves, nor dis-proves possible contrails.
The point is, looking at old 1960's family album photos is not a useful many of these photos have a washed-out sky.
But sometimes, sky trails are captured in older photos......but is rare.
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