If you could see my parents' wedding pictures (1946) your assessment would be confirmed. The blacks were black and the whites were white and detailed. If you look at B&W movie films from the 1940s, travelogues in B&W from that era, and from other sources you will be confirmed.

Something happened though the decades that transcended Ansel Adams and made 'photography' more 'for the masses' rather than 'for artistry for artistry's sake'. - David Lyga