Sound Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for sound engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Hello all, and happy new year!

I'm searching for 1930's to 1950's-era traffic and urban recordings from (preferably) individual or boutique libraries (read: not Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge, all the usual suspects). My goal is to capture the feel of what the major metropolitan cities of the United States sounded like on any given day. Think downtown New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco; traffic ambiences made up of classic Fords, Packards, Plymouths, Studebakers, etc, as well as other modes of transport such as electric street cars, cable cars, motorcycles, etc.

UPDATE: As I stated before, this request isn't limited to the United States; I believe cities such as Cuba and Mexico have many vintage American autos still on the streets and relatively low levels of heavy traffic wash from freeways and interstates. If there are any SSD folks living in such an area, I would love to talk with you re. your existing recordings or perhaps gathering new ones for this purpose.

I'm looking forward to the ensuing thread and all possible leads!

share|improve this question

Perhaps it's worth a try asking at the city archive. I don't know what they think about commercial use if you are planning to do so.

share|improve this answer
@Jascha Viehl, great idea. I will investigate! – Jay Jennings Jan 2 '12 at 17:04
please let us know if it worked. – Jascha Viehl Jan 3 '12 at 0:34

Perhaps you could investigate vintage newsreels at, specifically the movies in the Prelinger Collection, which are public domain. Here's one about New York in 1941. I'm guessing that they'll mostly be music, but you might find some city recordings in the clear.

You may also have some luck investigating the BBC archives. Or taking a trip to a vintage auto show, there's a great one in Monterey every year.

share|improve this answer
@Justin Pearson, thanks for the input - – Jay Jennings Jan 3 '12 at 19:27
you could also check out news reports such as radio street reporting from the era. Whether this is archived by government or Broadcasters and if you can use it is another thing. – ofa Jan 10 '12 at 9:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.