Vintage aerial photos show bygone Minnesota

Imagine how cool it would be if Google Earth had a “Go Back In Time” button. Click a tab and you could zoom in on satellite views from decades ago.

You can get a taste of that experience by visiting the online home of Vintage Aerial.

The Ohio company has more than 25 million aerial photographs, mostly of American farms and other rural properties during the 1960s and 1970s. The collection includes tens of thousands photographs taken in Minnesota.

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Vintage Aerial stores boxes of film at its offices in Maumee, Ohio. (Photo courtesy Vintage Aerial)

Vintage Aerial is hoping nostalgia powers its business. The company sells framed black-and-white prints from $199 to $399 each.

The firm traces its roots back to a mom-and-pop business that flew small planes over rural America, taking aerial photos that door-to-door salesmen later hawked to farmers. The company now offers its own photos for sale and has acquired the rights to pictures taken by over the years by other aerial photography outfits.

“We feel like we have a time machine to look into the past,” said Ken Krieg, the company’s sales director.

The vast majority of the pictures in the collection are not digitized — and not yet available online. But you can explore those that are digitized and geo-coded on a nifty map Vintage Aerial put together.

The company hopes to make more headway digitizing and mapping the photos with the help of customers.

Here’s how it works: Someone interested in buying a photo submits an address or crossroads. Then a researcher at Vintage Aerial pulls a box of film from that county and sends the potential customer a series of shots from the right vicinity. If the customer spots the desired property, everyone’s happy — and the data gets entered on the map.

You can explore the site for free. And the firm looks up properties for no charge. You don’t pay unless you buy the framed print.

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Each box contains 122 rolls of film and each roll of film has about 36 exposures. That’s about 4,400 photos per box.

Here are some images from Minnesota. The first four are from Hennepin County in 1967. The others are from around the state.

Do any of these buildings still stand? Where are they? Can you find them on Google Maps or Google Earth? If you have any details, leave them in the comments below.

1. Hennepin County, 1967

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2. Hennepin County, 1967

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3. Hennepin County, 1967

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4. Hennepin County, 1967

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Nobles County, 1969

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Rice County, 1967

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Scott County, 1967

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Big Stone County, 1979

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