Farms of America in Color 1939-1943

Life on the farm

Photo: Russell Lee/Farm Security Administration/Office of War/Library of Congress [CC by 1.0]

The photo show, "Bound for Glory: America in Color" displays 70 digital prints made from color transparencies taken between 1939 and 1943. The portraits capture the effects of the Depression on the country's rural and small-town populations, as well as America's economic recovery and industrial growth, and the mobilization for World War II.

The photos not only document life in America, but also the development of a new era — the Kodachrome era. The exhibition showed a vibrant, color world which typically had been viewed only through black-and-white images.

Homesteaders

Russell Lee, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Homesteaders Faro and Doris Caudill were photographed in Pie Town, N.M., in October 1940. According to "Pie Town Woman," by Joan Myers, Doris visited Pie Town in the summer as a teenager. She and Faro dated before marrying and living in a dugout on a homestead in nearby Divide. The couple lived on the homestead with their daughter, who was 6 when the photos were taken. Other photos of Doris show her planting her garden, canning vegetables and milking cows.

Reproduction from color slide.

Dinner time

Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The Faro Caudill family eat dinner in their dugout in Pie Town, N.M., in October 1940. The father, Faro, got sick and the family moved away. He looked for work in the city and began relationships with other women. Doris and Faro divorced. Doris trekked to Alaska to try homesteading again and stayed married to the same man for 39 years.

Reproduction from color slide.

For sale

Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Folks gather for a farm auction in Derby, Conn., in September 1940. Rural America saw declines in farm ownership during the 1930s. For instance, in 1930, 52 percent of the farmers in Nebraska owned their own land; by 1940, less than 47 percent of them did.

The era was dubbed the "Dirty 30s" because of the dust, insects, summer heat and winter cold. When these combined elements destroyed the crops, farmers were left with no money for groceries or farm payments.

Reproduction from color slide.

Taters

Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Children gather potatoes on a large farm in the vicinity of Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine, in October 1940. During these times, children would go back to school for a few weeks, then school would break so they could help harvest the potatoes.

Reproduction from color slide.

Tending the cotton

Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains in Greene County, Georgia, June 1941. Laborers were needed to hand-pick the cotton on plantations before reliable harvesting machinery was introduced to the South in the 1950s. Before this, cotton harvesting machinery was too clumsy to pick the cotton without shredding the fibers. The machines began to replace laborers, causing employment in the cotton industry to fall and the South's rural labor force to dwindle during the first and second World Wars.

Reproduction from color slide.

The Whinery family

Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family in Pie Town, N.M., in October 1940. The Whinerys lived in a dugout house and covered the walls with cardboard to keep the dirt from flaking into the home's interior. Most dugouts had a short life, since once the farmers had enough money, they would build plank or rock homes. However, the dugouts had a second life as shelter for the livestock.

Reproduction from color slide.

The garden

Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Garden adjacent to the dugout home of Jack Whinery, a homesteader in Pie Town, N.M., in September 1940. Because of the time period, the Whinery garden may be considered a victory garden, a plot of land devoted to feeding the family at home so commercial growers and processors' efforts could be redirected to the war effort. Victory gardens contained a range of foods, including a balance of leafy, root and fruiting veggies. Many of these foods could be served raw, simply cooked or canned for future use.

Reproduction from color slide.

Millions of peaches

Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

A farmer hauls crates of peaches from the orchard to the shipping shed in Delta County, Colorado, in September 1940. A revolution was happening in American agriculture. Farmers became much more productive in less and less time. The reasons for this were better machines, new varieties of crops and livestock, new pesticides and better irrigation techniques.

Reproduction from color slide.

Pickin' peaches

Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The automobiles of peach pickers are parked in front of a large hay stack in Delta County, Colorado in 1940. Peak peach season is from late June to early July in the South; July and August in the North. The best peaches are produced when weather conditions are ideal, with no late frosts.

Reproduction from color slide.

Corn field

Marion Post Wolcott. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Farmers plant corn along a river in northeastern Tennessee in May 1940. Once the corn was grown, some of it was used in corn-husking competitions. In 1940, near Davenport, Iowa, the contest attracted one of the largest crowds, numbering 123,000. Winners were treated like celebrities.

Reproduction from color slide.