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Dating a photo by streets & highways


One of the challenges of working with old photos is when they are poorly labeled, often without a date. So that leads to finding different ways to figure out the approximate date of a photograph. Thinks like dating based on clothing fashion, date of the automobile, when buildings were built.


This has lead me to start working on an essay about using such tricks to try to date photographs. It is written specifically for photos taken in and around Manistee.

One of the tricks is to know the history of various streets and highways. For example does the highway sign in the photo say M-11 or U.S.-31? Was the highway even built yet? What route does it follow? Is the street or highway paved? So here is a brief history of city streets and county highways for Manistee.


In the city of Manistee, some streets were paved in 1901-1902; 1905+.

U.S.-31 Highway:

· Parts of U.S.-31/M-11 was first paved in 1850.

· Up to 1926 it was “M-11.”

· In 1933 the bascule draw bridge over the Manistee River is competed. That bridge is still in use today.

· July 19, 1951 U.S.-31 is rerouted into Cypress Street from First Street to the bridge. (former route became city streets: westerly on River Street from Cypress to Division Street, southerly on Division St., and easterly on First Street.)

· Nov. 18, 1955 U.S.-31 is rerouted from First Street south along Cypress Street and a new route bending southeasterly to Grant Highway. (Former route became city streets: the stair-step route through Maxwell Town.)

· Reroute built to by-pass Norwalk and bridge over the railroad track was completed Sept. 30, 1963.

M-22 Highway:

· Parts of M-22 was first paved in 1870

· In 1939 a short segment was graded from Arcadia to the Benzie County line in 1939. Work was halted and completed in 1942. (Former route became county roads: along Glovers Lake and St. Pierre Roads.)

M-110 Highway

· Became a highway Aug. 8, 1927.

· In 2003 M-110 ceased to exist – being transferred to a county road.

M-55 Highway:

· 1931-1933 M-55 is built between Cadillac and Manistee.

· March 24, 1931: U.S-31 to Udell Hills Road opens.

· March 12, 1932: Udell Hills Road to Seaman Road opens.

· Oct. 29, 1932 Seaman Road to Wexford County line opens (via Low Bridge)

· Oct. 28, 1935 Cooley Bridge over the Pine River opens.

· M-55 is paved by 1936.

M-115 Highway:

· 1937 construction from Wexford County line to Copemish starts in 1937.

· Sept. 6, 1938: Nearly 200 Works Progress Administration (WPA) works near Copemish go on strike. M-115 opens as a graded-earth roadway.

· January 28, 1942 becomes a gravel surfaced road and designated as a state highway.

· July 9, 1942 it is paved.

For more information on history of state highways see: http://www.michiganhighways.org/history.html

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