Jan 31, 2009


This adorable child was photographed in Alabama in 1943. If she were 12 at the time, she'd be 78 years old today.

photographer: John Collier [American Memory link]

Jan 30, 2009


Workers on a Puerto Rican sugar plantation. I love everything about this shot: the dark sky, the desolate field, the curve of the water barrel.

Photo by Edwin Rosskam, 1938. [American Memory link]

Jan 29, 2009

Planting Time

Planting corn by hand in 1941 South Carolina.

Photo by Jack Delano. [American Memory link]

Jan 28, 2009

Grown-Up Eyes

There's something about the older child's eyes in this photo. She looks far too grown-up for her age. South Carolina, 1941.

Photo by Jack Delano. [American Memory link]

Jan 27, 2009


The caption accompanying this powerful photo reads: "Fifty-seven year old sharecropper woman. Hinds County, Mississippi. Thin dimes around the ankles to prevent headaches."

Dorothea Lange, 1937. [American Memory Link]

Jan 26, 2009

Quiet Time

Four o'clock in the afternoon in a grocery store in Chinatown. There's a hazy quality to the light, and the staff appear sleepy.

Click the photo to see a larger version. Taken by Marjory Collins in New York city, 1942. [American Memory link]

Jan 25, 2009

Shucking Corn

Separating large numbers of corn cobs from their husks is a daunting task. Neighbours took turns helping each other with this labor.

Taken in 1939 West Virginia, on a farm rented by a man identified as Uncle Henry Garrett.

Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. [American Memory link]

Jan 24, 2009

Loading Corn

Be sure to click this photo to view the larger version. It's beautiful. The man and the corn are crisp and sharp, while the horses and wagon have a soft, almost dream-like quality.

Taken in Maryland, 1937. Photo by Arthur Rothstein. [American Memory link]

Jan 23, 2009


This is a great portrait. I can almost smell the pipe smoke. A retired railroad engineer, this gent's second career involves growning corn and wheat on a 25-acre Virginia farm.

1940. Photo by Jack Delano. [American Memory link]

Jan 22, 2009

Lunch To Go

A boy with an old-fashioned lunch pail. Tobacco tins were commonly used for this purpose.

I've sometimes wondered why we call containers that look more like buckets or boxes "lunch pails". This is a great example of how our use of language often lags behind our changing environment. Similarly, some people still refer to CDs as "records".

Virginia, 1940. Photo by Jack Delano. [American Memory link]

Jan 21, 2009


An abandoned house in 1939 Oklahoma. Photo by Russell Lee.

[American Memory link]

Jan 20, 2009

Old Technology

A hand-powered corn grinder in 1939 Oklahoma. Photo by Russell Lee.

[American Memory link]

Jan 19, 2009

Horses Are Smelly, Too

In 1940 Iowa, corn got planted with the aid of farm animals - which required constant feeding and care. If your horses fell ill, your family's food supply might be threatened. Dire consequences lurked around every corner - which is why farm folk tend to be cautious and conservative.

Photo by John Vachon. [American Memory link]

Jan 18, 2009

Pigs Are Smelly

Hogs eating corn on a Missouri farm. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, 1939.

Many of us feel a nostalgia for simpler times. But the buildings in this photo look spare and impoverished. Not to mention that pigs are smelly - and make rude noises :-)

[American Memory link]

Jan 17, 2009

Do Not Apply

A sign in Colorado, 1940. Folks looking for work during the Great Depression encountered numerous signs of this sort.

One wonders how many parents with young mouths to feed had their day darkened by this particular one on the date this photo happened to be taken.

Photographer: Russell Lee. [American Memory link]

Jan 15, 2009

Pearl Harbor

The caption accompanying this photo reads:

"Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A small boat rescues a seaman from the 31,800 ton USS West Virginia burning in the foreground. Smoke rolling out amidship shows where the most extensive damage occurred. Note the two men in the superstructure. The USS Tennessee is inboard."

On the morning of Sunday, Dec 7th, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack against the United States - killing 2,400 and wounding a further 1,300.

188 American aircraft were destroyed, as were four battleships.

[photographer unidentified] [American Memory link]

Jan 14, 2009


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. [American Memory link]

Jan 13, 2009


A telephone, with a telephone book. Iowa, 1940.

Oh, for the good old days - in which one bent over, speaking into the microphone as best one could, while holding the other part to one's ear.

Awesome how much things have changed during the past 69 years.

Photo by John Vachon. [American Memory link]

Jan 12, 2009

Come and Gone

A telephone operator in 1941 Maryland. Yes, Virginia, a live human needed to physically connect your call, moving those cables from one place to another.

Photo by John Vachon. [American Memory link]

Jan 11, 2009

World Series

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

Photo by Russell Lee. [American Memory link]

Jan 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. [American Memory link]

Jan 9, 2009

Hot Peppers

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

Jan 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. [American Memory link]

Jan 7, 2009

Charlie Chaplin Chicken

A poster for a sideshow at a county fair. Rutland, Vermont. 1941.

Photo by Jack Delano.
[American Memory link] to locate this image, use search terms: sideshow, poster

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

Jan 5, 2009

Horse Power

Take stunning sculpture, mix with equally stunning photography - and voila!

Photo by Esther Bubley. Shot in 1943 in front of the Federal Trade Commission building in Washington D.C.

[American Memory link] to locate this image, use search terms: federal, trade, sculpture

Jan 4, 2009


It's impossible to know the emotions of these women as they gaze over the fence at the amusement park. Curiosity? Longing? Childhood reminiscence?

Photo by Fenno Jacobs. Southington, Connecticut. 1942.

[American Memory link] to locate this image, use search terms: Connecticut, amusement, park

Jan 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. [American Memory link]

Jan 2, 2009


to locate this image on the American Memory website, click the link below
Two gorgeous portraits of Michigan youngsters in 1939.

to locate this image on the American Memory website, click the link below
Photos by Arthur S. Siegel. [American Memory link]

Jan 1, 2009

Newly Born

locate this image on the American Memory website by using search terms FIVE, MINUTE and LAMB A newborn lamb, standing on his own four legs for the first time.

Montana, 1942. Photo by John Vachon.

[American Memory link] to locate this image, use search terms: five, minute, lamb