View Historic Photographs & Prints by Decade from the 1930s
11 Carl Mydan’s Photographs of The 1930s DC Slums
Washington DC was a very different place in the 1930s. Charactarized by absent public transport, housing shortages and economic opportunists, slums arose across the city. DC was planned with spacious lots, and wealthy property owners, recognizing the shortage of housing and the influx of migrant workers, started building small ramshackle dwellings in the alleys behind their homes. Carl Mydans, a Massachusetts born photographer, came to DC in 1935 after accepting an offer to work for the Resettlement Administration. One of the RA’s mandates was to relocate struggling urban families. The RA was folded into the Farm Security Administration after only a year. When Mydans arrived in DC he found a depressed working class community living in unsanitary and dangerous conditions. The DC alley slums made the politicians on Capital Hill deeply uncomfortable. It conflicted with their image of the city as a gleaming white representation of American virtue and exceptionalism. The Alley Dwelling Authority was created in 1934. They argued that affordable housing was now available, and the Authority was given control to condemn the slums. The reality proved to be different. Housing prices in DC rose dramatically with the boom following the second world war. Monuments and office buildings sprang up around the city, but the working class people displaced from the DC alley slums continued to struggle. Historic & vintage photographs on Photistoric.
16 Silkscreen Posters from the WPA
Included in Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration was funding for the Federal Art Project. At the close of the Federal Art Project in 1943, over 200,000 works had been made from artists including Mark Rothko, Grant Wood and Phillip Guston; now known around the world. Along with plays, murals and traditional paintings, many posters were made by artists for organisations also sponsored by the WPA. The incredible diversity of style and subject remain influential for graphic designers and artists today. Vintage prints on Photistoric.
14 Portraits from the Lomax Collection
Alan Lomax was a folk music collector for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. He made acetate and aluminum discs of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, Jelly Roll Morton and other influential early American musicians. Without the ambitious efforts that included Alan’s father, also a musicologist, and his wife Ruby, many important songs and musicians would have remained undiscovered. Vintage photographs on Photistoric.
15 historic photographs by Russell Lee of Lumberjacks in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s history is synonymous with logging. In 1937, Russell lee traveled to lumber camps in rural Minnesota. Writing to Lee, a friend and fellow photographer said of International Falls Minnesota that as “one of the toughest towns on the border, it is a meeting place of Lumberman, indian traders, trappers, smugglers, immigration and refugee smugglers, and so on. They used to kill a man every morning before breakfast and one just before supper, just for amusement.” The following images were taken by Lee when he was employed by the Farm Security Administration. Vintage Photographs on Photistoric.
23 Photographs from the Dust Bowl
More than 5,000 people died from the heatwave of 1936. It was the hottest summer on record. Those crops that hadn’t withered in the first half of the decade now failed. People collapsed from exhaustion in their homes. The summer of 1936 marked the most desperate point of a four year drought and a decade long economic depression that displaced 2.5 million people. This time came to be known as the Dust Bowl.
Unseasonable heavy rain in the years preceding 1930 convinced farmers that aggressive ploughing was acceptable, when in reality a very thin topsoil was only protected by a thin layer of grass. When precipitation did not materialize, the exposed soil quickly dried. High winds, which were not uncommon, were now able to pick up millions of pounds of dried soil and blow it in huge rolling black clouds. Towns were abandoned. The largest exodus of Americans occurred in the 1930’s as a result of this agricultural disaster. Poor and hungry, whole families traveled west for work.
The high-resolution photographs of migrant workers in this series show the men, women and children who lived during this troubled time. Among others, Dororthea Lange was hired by the Farm Security Administration to document the Dust Bowl. During this time, she created some of her most iconic images.
Out of a collection of thousands of photographs from the Library of Congress, the following portraits have been chosen for their emotion and technical quality.
Curated historic photography on Photistoric.