LIFE and Times: Packard Party in Detroit

. . . specifically, the memory of what big parties were like in the 1940s—as evidenced by the first collection of LIFE Magazine photographs discovered by PPG volunteer Richard Mayer. Available for viewing in full through Google Arts & Culture, these images were taken by LIFE Magazine photographer Hansel Mieth, a German-born photojournalist whose work frequently centered on the lifestyles and occupational conditions of working-class Americans.

The Packard Motor Car Co. Party in Detroit collection consists of over one hundred photographs taken during well-attended parties hosted by the Packard Motor Car Co. Featured locations are the Detroit Masonic Temple building in downtown Detroit; as well as gatherings on the Packard Proving Grounds. In the former case, Mayer observed that “Packard probably used some of the many lodge rooms or theatres at the temple for their party,” which was then, as it would be now, a beautiful setting for any special event.

Mayer’s careful eye also notes that the collection features “several aerial shots at the PPG that were obviously shot from the water tower,” noting that in 1940, the tank building would not yet have been built. Details like this enrich a photograph’s ability to depict the past lives of their subjects—and it’s why photography continues to be one of the most coveted artifacts any historical institution wants to add to their collections.