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America Before Pearl Harbor - Early Kodachrome Images Diaries
by johnnygunn dKosopedia
Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 12:32:05 AM PDT Search
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When we think of America during the Great Depression, we often picture it in shades of grey. It was a grim era and
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nearly all of the photographs we see are in black and white.
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This is one of Dorothea Lange’s most famous photographs - a destitute mother in a migrant farm worker camp in union.
California. Lange was one of the many talented WPA photographers who recorded the history and conditions of the
Depression across the United States. Read Our Story Here
Follow me below the fold as we look at America before Pearl Harbor.

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Color presents an entirely different image.

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This is a photograph of Faro and Doris Caudill, farmers in Pietown, New Mexico. Legacy.
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As the 1930s came to a close, Kodak came out with Kodachrome film – the first commercially viable color film Available April 15.
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Kodachrome was producing color images of remarkable precision.

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Now, not just anybody could buy this film. It cost $5 per roll and had to be sent back to Rochester, New York for
development. By comparison, in 1938 Congress established the first minimum wage at 25 cents per hour. $5
represented half a week’s work. But the Farm Security Administration sent out about a dozen photographers with
this new film. Commercial photographer, Samuel Gottscho, and well-to-do amateur, Charles Cushman, embraced
this new technology, as well.

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Urban America

New York City was the metropolis of America.

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Washington was a city of contrasts – the New Deal having extended its influence across the nation.

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Chicago was the transportation, food, and manufacturing center of the country.

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New Orleans was the largest city in the South – not Atlanta.

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Jim Crow laws were a fact of life for residents of the Ninth Ward.

San Francisco had been eclipsed by Los Angeles in size, but it remained the most important port and financial center
of the West.

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And Charles Cushman had to take a photograph of his new coupe beside the recently-completed Golden Gate Bridge.

Rural America

Nearly half of all Americans still lived on farms and in small towns.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

The Farmall Tractor had revolutionized farming, but mechanization remained limited.

In rural Georgia, folks still went to town on Saturday by wagon.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

And kids still went barefoot in Indiana in the summertime.

Mothers still made clothes for the kids – from flour and feed sacks - as with these girls at the Vermont State Fair.

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And grandmothers still made sure that their teenaged granddaughters didn’t hang out at the horse auctions with the
menfolk in little towns in eastern Kentucky.

This is my favorite.
Look how mad grandma is and how her granddaughter is stomping away.

Saturdays were the day that everybody went to town in Cascade, Idaho.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

But rural life remained quite distinct from urban America – whether on the C-D Ranch in Montana –

Or during the peach harvest in western Colorado.

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Modernization

Despite the Depression, modernization proceeded rapidly in the 1930s.


People still traveled by train. Railroads were one of the largest employers.

But the emerging airlines were already flying four-engine Boeing Stratoliners out of Chicago Midway for those
wealthy enough to fly.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

The country store was the furthest many rural Southerners ever got.

Yet, Miami Beach was filled with northern vacationers.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

Hoover Dam began generating electricity for California in 1936 – promising to transform the West.

The Roosevelt Administration’s TVA projects created jobs and electricity for one of the poorest regions of the South.
The divide between urban and rural America was beginning to close.

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Having Fun

By 1939, Americans wanted to imagine a new and better future after the Depression decade.
The futuristic New York World’s Fair ran for two seasons in 1939 and 1940.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exposition envisioned a Pacific future for America.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

Americans celebrated Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak during the summer of 1941 and another Yankees’ World Series
championship in the fall.

Dances in Oklahoma were simple affairs – with perhaps a fiddler and guitarist.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

And on the cusp of modernity, Americans still clung nostalgically to rural myths –
Not the reality of the poverty that most rural Americans endured during the Depression.

But they saw it in color - - for the very first time.

Those on the Edges

Although immigration had been curtailed in the 1920s, the Lower East Side remained vibrantly Jewish.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

African Americans faced brutal discrimination in jobs, housing, education, and public accommodations. It’s no
wonder that the women here and even the older girl are suspicious of the white photographer.

The New Deal did little to improve conditions for sharecroppers in Alabama.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

Mining families in Pennsylvania still lived in decrepit company housing.

The Roosevelt administration struggled to get Mexican American children out of the fields and into schools in Texas
and other border states.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

Native Americans, who had only recently received citizenship in their own land, remained desperately poor. This
Tohono O'odham grandmother in Tucson shows the same distruct of the white photographer that the Africam
American family in Maryland did.

And little do these Japanese Americans suspect – as they celebrate their culture during the World’s Fair - that within
two years, they will be deported to relocation camps by their own government.

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Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

On December 6th, a very different America prevailed.


After December 7th, that America would be changed forever,

Tags: Pearl Harbor, Great Depression, World War II, Photography, Farm Security Administration, Charles
Cushman, Samuel Gottscho, Rural, Poverty, Recommended (all tags) :: Previous Tag Versions

Permalink | 314 comments

Comments: Expand Shrink Hide (Always) | Indented Flat (Always)

21 of 23 4/14/08 8:05 AM
Daily Kos: State of the Nation http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/04913/9030/204/278472

Hope You Enjoy - - (565+ / 0-)

by johnnygunn on Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 12:28:45 AM PDT

fantastic, thanks! (54+ / 0-)

I hope this makes it through to tomorrow. Great bunch of pics. The early history of
colour photography is fascinating.

Wanna see some really early colour photography? Check out the The Empire That Was
Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated over at the Library of
Congress.

"People who say I'm dystopian are middle class pussies!" – William Gibson

by subtropolis on Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 01:02:55 AM PDT


[ Parent ]

I Know - (28+ / 0-)

I'm aware of that collection.


Ain't the internet sumptin' else?

Although the process certainly wasn't commercially viable - the color is stunning.
I'm not sure how much of that color could have been reproduced a century ago.

Russians are almost always denied leadership roles in technology and invention.
Of course, that changed with Sputnik - didn't it?

by johnnygunn on Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 01:09:30 AM PDT


[ Parent ]

beep & (10+ / 0-)

Ain't the internet sumptin' else?

Yeah, after scouring my bookmarks to no avail (i first came across that more than half a
decade ago (!)), i googled "New York Public Library +Russian +photgraphs +color". I
didn't get very far until i changed that NYPL to LOC, and ~bing~ there it was again.

It certainly was an experimental technology then. The images you've posted, the
commentary, and the emphasis on the looming events about to sweep everything up
were great. Thanks again.

"People who say I'm dystopian are middle class pussies!" – William Gibson

by subtropolis on Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 01:31:41 AM PDT


[ Parent ]

Great, now I can't get (17+ / 0-)

that Paul Simon song out of my head...

Momma don't take my kodachrome


Momma don't take my kodachrome
Momma don't take my kodachrome
awaaaay

The Energy Miser


A blog about alternative energy, saving energy, and saving the planet.

by durrenm on Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 05:54:45 AM PDT


[ Parent ]

well digital has (4+ / 0-)

sorry Paul.

by NYFM on Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 08:59:02 AM PDT


[ Parent ]

22 of 23 4/14/08 8:05 AM
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