View Historic Photographs & Prints by Decade from the 1940s
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.
16 Ansel Adams’ Photographs of the Shameful Internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
On February 19th, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This order led to forced internment of 110,000 Japenese-Americans and Americans of Japanese descent following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan on December 7th, 1942. 80,000 of those interned were born in the United States and held United States citizenship. A report by the Carter Administration in 1983 acknowledged that the internment was “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” Fuelled by outrage at the Pearl Harbor attacks and media neurosis, public sentiment favored the internment. Henry McLemore, a columnist during the time wrote:
“I am for immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don’t mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd ’em up, pack ’em off and give ’em the inside room in the badlands. Let ’em be pinched, hurt, hungry and dead up against it …”
In 1943, the American photographer Ansel Adams traveled to the Manzanar Relocation Center. According the National Park Service, the Manzanar camp had a “peak [population] of 10,046 in September 1942. When gifting the photographs to the Library of Congress Adams wrote:
“All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use…The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and despair by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.”
Vintage Photographs on Photistoric.