Friday, May 23, 2014


I saw this America Before Pearl Harbor series of pictures, made with a new technology of the late 1930s.  To pull some facts from the text accompanying the photographs, it was color photography before it was available to the general public.  The film was too expensive, at $5 per roll, and it had to be sent to Rochester, New York, for developing.  To set the time frame, in 1936 FDR was seeking a second term and the unemployment rate was at 17%.   In 1938 Congress established the first minimum wage at 25 cents per hour.  Five dollars represented half a week's work.    

The Farm Security Administration, a Federal effort during the Depression to combat American rural poverty, sent out about a dozen photographers with this new film. Commercial and amateur photographers who could afford the film accepted the challenge of the new technology as well. 

The sad part about this post is that some of these pictures could have been taken last week.  It never ceases to amaze me how those against government assistance for the unemployed will tear out large portions of a bill, refuse to appropriate enough money to make it work if it passes, and then state with total innocence "See, we told you it wouldn't work." 

In 1939, about the time the Farm Security Administration began developing its series of Kodachrome pictures, I was seven years old.  These  pictures are in such contrast to the way I lived as a child that I wanted to present them together. I've always known that I was a privileged child -- not with money, but with family -- and the pictures show the contrast clearly. 

I know there were many who lived lives with significantly more or less material things than our family had, but there were also many who lived as I did.  I was the child of a family in a middle-sized, midwestern town, in the middle of the Great Depression.  Besides being willing to work hard, my parents had much to be thankful for.  Both born in 1889, they were the children of immigrants from Germany and Norway, a fact which gave them the dual advantages of being white and having parents who valued educating their children.    

Go HERE to read CHILD OF THE THIRTIES, about my childhood  in Illinois during the depression.  
Go HERE  to see the series of pictures of various people and places in the United States all taken at about the same time -- before December 7, 1941 -- with the new color film.  

Copy and paste for access to Kodachrome Pictures before Pearl Harbor 

If this encourages you to reminisce about changes in the economic world that influenced your path in life, feel free to write about it here.

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