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A Look at Cobo Hall’s First Auto Show — 53 Years Later

June 10, 2013

To many people, the words “Cobo Hall” and “auto show” are practically synonymous.Zasa-Collection 2_073

After all, since 1965, the grandaddy of all auto shows – the North American International Auto Show – has been held inside the downtown Detroit venue.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Back in 1960, shortly after the Cobo opened its doors, it hosted its first auto show: The National Auto Show.

Held traditionally in New York City, the shift to the home of the Big Three Automakers was considered a momentous event. So momentous that President Eisenhower and celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich were among the 1,000,00 people to show up. The show itself was broadcast nationwide on CBS.

To read a fascinating narrative about this show by renowned automobile historian Robert Tate, click on this link. 

Recently, we at Priceless Photo Preservation had the honor to digitize a collection of stereo slides that included about a dozen full-color images of the show – including some spectacular tableaus of the main display floor. (If you are unfamiliar with stereo slides, they were the equivalent of a do-it-yourself Viewmaster. You looked at the two images with a special viewer to get a simulated 3-D effect. You can see some more examples of historical stereo slides, also known as stereographs, in the New York Public Library’s online collection).

We animated several of the slides for our client (as we can do with all stereographs we are hired to preserve). Here’s one example. Click on the picture itself and you’ll see it in “motion.”

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But to showcase the historical nature of this find, we put together this slide show that includes all the images we digitized.

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