Memories    [back to TripodGirl.com]

From the Great Depression to World War II - photos from the American Memory collection


DONNA LAFRAMBOISE  aka  TripodGirl
The American Memory collection contains more than 162,000 images taken between 1935 and 1944 by government-hired photographers. If you were to look at 100 of them per day, every day, you'd need more than four years to view them all. As a photographer, I consider these images nothing short of wondrous. This blog showcases some of them.

January 14, 2009

Extracurricular

It isn't clear whether young people would normally be recruited for such tasks in heavily agricultural 1940s American - or whether labor was in short supply due to the war.

At any rate, this series of photos shows hundreds of co-ed high-school students being trucked into Idaho pea fields to help with the harvest.

Photo by Russell Lee, 1941.

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[American Memory link]

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January 11, 2009

World Series

Listening to a World Series game on the radio. Utah, 1940.

Photo by Russell Lee.

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January 10, 2009

Two Horses and an Automobile

A farmer, a hired hand, two horses and an automobile. Old technology intersecting with new.

This is such a great shot. A perfect creative-writing jumping off point.

Photo taken in 1940 Arizona by Russell Lee.

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January 9, 2009

Hot Peppers

Chili peppers drying in the sun. Hung from an adobe building in New Mexico.

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January 8, 2009

Texas Chili

A ranch cook lifts the lid on a pot of chili prepared on a Texas roundup, 1939.

Photo by Russell Lee.

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January 6, 2009

New Shoes

The caption accompanying this image reads: "Mormon farmer shoeing a horse, Santa Clara, Utah." The collection contains several similar photos from different parts of the country.

Photo by Russell Lee, 1940.

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[American Memory link]
to locate this image, use search terms: horse, shoe

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January 3, 2009

Bar Belles

Crab boil night at a bar in Raceland, Louisiana. Other photos in this series show tables covered with crab.

Photo by Russell Lee, 1938.

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December 30, 2008

Good Times

locate this image on the American Memory website by using search terms YOUNGSTERS and DANCE A young couple at a Junior Chamber of Commerce dance in San Angelo, Texas. 1940.

Photo by Russell Lee.

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to locate this image, use search terms: youngsters, dance

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December 29, 2008

Swing Your Partner

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms NEW, SQUARE and DANCE Square dancing in New Mexico, 1940.

Photo by Russell Lee.

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to locate this image, use search terms: new, square, dance

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December 28, 2008

Home Delivery

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms GROCERY and BOYS In 1941 Chicago, these young men waited outside grocery stores - earning money by truddling home shoppers' purchases.

Photo by Russell Lee.

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to locate this image, use search terms: grocery, boys

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December 17, 2008

Roughneck

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms OIL, WORKER and OKLAHOMA An oil-field worker in Oklahoma, 1939.

Photo by Russell Lee

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to locate this image, use search terms: oil, worker, Oklahoma

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December 16, 2008

10 People, 3 Small Rooms

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms TWO ADULTS and EIGHT CHILDREN Taken in the "Mexican section" of San Diego in 1941. The father is an agricultural worker.

The family lives in what is described as "three small rooms, with no bath...They use an outside toilet shared with five other families." In addition to the eight children in this photo, another is on the way.

(photographer: Russell Lee)

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to locate this image, use search terms: two adults, eight children

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December 5, 2008

More Frogs

locate this image on the American Memory website by using search terms STORE, SIGN and LOUISIANA
Taken in Louisiana, in 1939, by Russell Lee.

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to locate this image, use search terms: store, sign, Louisiana

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December 3, 2008

Typo

locate this image on the American Memory website by using search terms SAN JUAN and SIGN Oh, dear.

Photo taken by Russell Lee in San Juan, Texas. 1939.

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to locate this image, use search terms: San Juan, sign

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December 1, 2008

Laundry

Texas, 1939. A child exits a "privy" while a woman washes clothes the hard way - by hand, in a tub.

The collection contains numerous photos depicting the laborious and time-consuming ways in which this task was accomplished prior to the arrival of running water, electricity, and modern appliances.

Photo by Russell Lee.

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to locate this image, use search terms: clothes, washing, Texas

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November 30, 2008

Donkey Cart

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms BURRO and CARTNew Mexico, 1940. A time in which homesteaders still used burros/donkeys as a means of transportation.

Photo by Russell Lee.
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to locate this image, use search terms: burro, cart

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November 29, 2008

Mmm, Cabbage

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms CABBAGE and CANThe collection contains a series of 1942 photos documenting the processing of fresh whole cabbage into dehydrated ribbons which were then canned and shipped overseas to feed the armed forces.

In the first photo, a worker hermetically hand-seals a 2.5-gallon can. Gourmet fare it was not. Nor had routine industrial tasks become fully mechanized yet.

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms CABBAGE and CAN
Photos by Russell Lee.

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to locate these images, use search terms: cabbage, can

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November 28, 2008

Empties

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms BEER and CELEBRATION The aftermath of a "beer party" in 1941 Oregon.

Photo by Russell Lee.

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to locate this image, use search terms: beer, celebration

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November 25, 2008

Christmas Dinner

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms EARL PAULEYAs American Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts turn toward the many reasons we have to feel grateful.

Taken in 1936, the caption accompanying these photos reads: "Christmas dinner in the home of Earl Pauley. Near Smithfield, Iowa. Dinner consisted of potatoes, cabbage and pie." Note the lunch bucket near the top of the images.

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms EARL PAULEY
(Photos by Russell Lee)
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to locate these images, use search terms: Earl, Pauley

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November 15, 2008

Hands

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms ANDREW OSTERMEYER The caption associated with this photo reads: "The hands of Mrs. Andrew Ostermeyer, wife of a homesteader, Woodbury County, Iowa."

Other photos explain that this 76-year-old and her 81-year-old husband had their farm re-possessed by the loan company and now live with their son.

Photo by Russell Lee, 1936.

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to locate this image, use search terms: Andrew, Ostermeyer

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November 9, 2008

Preacher Man

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms PREACHER and SCRIPTUREA preacher reading the scriptures to another man in San Antonio, Texas - 1939.
Photo by Russell Lee.

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to locate this image, use search terms: preacher, scripture

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November 8, 2008

Howdy Horse

A fun shot of a horse trainer and his steed at a rodeo in San Angelo, Texas.

Taken by Russell Lee in March 1940.

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November 7, 2008

Mother & Child

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms MOTHER CHILD NYSSA
Following Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in Dec. 1941, the United States officially joined World War II. One of the many consequences of these events was that individuals of Japanese origin or descent were evacuated from US coastal regions. In 1988, Congress apologized for that policy. Financial reparations in excess of $1 billion have since been made.

This photo was taken in Nyssa, Oregon in July 1942. Photographer Russell Lee explains: "Japanese-American mother and child at a baseball game. They were evacuated from a coastal area, volunteered to do farm work and now live at the FSA (Farm Security Administration) mobile camp."

A caption associated with another photo in this series notes: "These people volunteered to leave the reception centers to do farm work. When it was apparent that they would not be satisfied to stay unless they had electricity in individual camps, the sugar beet companies and the town of Nyssa arranged for electrical connections."
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to locate this image, use search terms: mother, child, Nyssa

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November 2, 2008

Abundance

locate this image on the American Memories website by using search terms FRESHLY LAID Freshly-laid eggs in Sonoma county, California.

Photo taken by Russell Lee in 1942.

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to locate this image, use search terms: freshly, laid,

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November 1, 2008

Boots

locate this image on the American Memory website by using search terms SPURS PIE I love everything about this photo - the shadow on the woodgrain of the porch, the elaborate stitching on the well-worn leather, the spurs, the fact that the denim cuffs are of different widths.

Photographer Russell Lee says that although the gent here is a farmer, he prefers to outfit himself according to his earlier job as a cowboy. Taken in 1940 in Pie Town, New Mexico.

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to locate this image, use search terms: spurs, pie,

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October 29, 2008

From Racial Segregation to the Oval Office (2 of 3)

[see Part 1 here]

America in the '30s and '40s had many racially-segregated hearts and neighborhoods. But other forces were also at work.

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms SOUTH CHICAGO TOGETHEROn Chicago's South Side in 1941, youngsters of different hues kept company. (Russell Lee)


to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms HILL HOUSE CHILDRENIn 1936 Mississippi, as children of tenant farmers (aka sharecroppers), their fortunes were entwined. (Dorothea Lange)

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms TEXAS BOOTBLACKSIn 1939 they worked shoulder-to-shoulder as shoeshine boys in Texas. (Russell Lee)

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms VIVIAN KINGMeanwhile, their mothers, aunts, and elder sisters built aircraft together in California during World War II. (These women are identified as Vivian King and Kathryn Polinaire.)

to locate these image on the American Memory website use searh terms LUCAS CHESNEYTheir fathers, uncles, and older brothers worked in tandem to construct warships such as the Booker T. Washington. (A photo caption explains this was the "first liberty ship named for a Negro." The man on the left is experienced welder Jessie Lucas. The one on the right is apprentice Rodney Chesney.) (Alfred T. Palmer)

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms MARIAN CHRISTENSWhen a women's organization refused to allow African-American opera singer Marian Anderson to perform in its concert hall in 1939, thousands of its members resigned - including the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. With assistance from the Roosevelts, Ms. Anderson later delivered a free, open-air concert to a racially-diverse crowd of 75,000.

In the 1942 photo above, the singer christens the Booker T. Washington. (Alfred T. Palmer)

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October 28, 2008

From Racial Segregation to the Oval Office (1 of 3)

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms STREETCAR, WATER and COOLERA streetcar terminal in Oklahoma, 1939. (Russell Lee)

The United States appears poised to elect its first president of African-American descent. To appreciate the magnitude of this event, let's time-travel back to the 1930s and '40s, courtesy of photos from the American Memory collection.

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms RESTAURANT, SIGN and OHIOA 1938 restaurant window in Ohio. (Ben Shahn)

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms CHILDREN, CONCRETE and WALL This half-mile long concrete wall was erected in Detroit, Michigan in 1941. Photographer John Vachon explains its purpose was "to separate the Negro section from a white housing development going up on the other side."

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search temrs FLAG, SIGN and DETROIT Feb. 1942 in Detroit. (Arthur S. Siegel)

to locate this image on the American Memory website, use search terms MILK, COMPANY and SIGN1941 Chicago. (John Vachon)

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[American Memory link]

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October 22, 2008

Complete Meal

to locate this image on the American Memory website, use search terms SIGN and CROWLEYTaken in Crowley, Louisiana in October 1938.

(photographer: Russell Lee)

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[American Memory link]
to locate this image, use search terms: sign, crowley

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October 21, 2008

Nap Time

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms NURSERY, NAP and ARIZONAThe collection contains hundreds of photos taken in nursery schools/day care centers from one end of America to the other. Some of the loveliest images record the quietest moments.

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms NURSERY, NAP and ARIZONA
to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms NURSERY, NAP and ARIZONAThe above three images are from an Arizona nursery school. They were taken by Russell Lee, in April 1940.

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms REST, NURSERY and FLORIDABelle Glade, Florida. Feb. 1941. (Taken by Marion Post Wolcott)


to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms WOODVILLE, NAP and NURSERYWoodville, California. March 1942. (Russell Lee)


to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms NAP and HARLINGENThe above photo was taken in Feb. 1942, in Harlingen, Texas, by Arthur Rothstein. During the same month he shot these final three in Sinton, Texas:

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms NURSERY, CHILD and SINTON

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms SLEEPY, SINTON and NURSERY

to locate this image on the American Memory website use search terms SLEEPY, SINTON and NURSERY
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[American Memory link]
to locate images such as these use search terms: nursery, nap

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