The 1940s: In Color

1942. “Shepherd with his horse and dog on Gravelly Range, Madison County, Montana.” Photograph by Russell Lee.
17 Historic Photographs of the Greatest Generation.

The 1940s were perhaps the most tumultuous decade in modern American and world history. The United States officially entered World War II in 1942. Countries were restructured and the atrocities of the atomic bomb and the holocaust caused millions of deaths. Isreal was established, as was the United Nations and the NATO forces.

A generation that had just begun to pull away from the Great Depression, now had to prepare for a massive war that took resources and labor away from its country’s depleted coffers. In place of the male workforce, women stepped in at the factories and offices. Photographers from the soon-to-be defunct Farm Security Administration documented war preparations and the new female workforce.

Some of the images during that time were taken on color film. All of the following images are in color and provide an immediacy that is not present in black and white photography. Vintage photographs on Photistoric.

1943. “Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas.” Photograph by John Vachon.

1943. “Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber, Tennessee.” Photograph by Alfred T Palmer.

1942. “Gus Worke, a farmer who came from Germany 40 years ago, Southington, Conn..” Photograph by Fenno Jacobs.

1942. “‘Women in white’ doctor Navy planes (motors) at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Mildred Webb, an NYA trainee at the base, is learning to operate a cutting machine in the Assembly and Repair Department. After about eight weeks as an apprentice she will be eligible for a civil service job in the capacity for which she has been trained.” Photograph by Howard R. Hollem.

1943. “Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, C. & N.W. R.R., Clinton, Iowa.” Photograph by Jack Delano.

1943. “C. & N.W. R.R., Mrs. Marcella Hart, mother of three children, employed as a wiper at the roundhouse, Clinton, Iowa.” Photograph by Jack Delano.

1943. “Night view of part of Santa Fe R.R. yard, Kansas City, Kansas.” Photograph by Jack Delano.

1943. “Daniel Senise throwing a switch while at work in an Indiana Harbor Belt Line railroad yard.” Photograph by Jack Delano.

1943. “Camouflage class at N[ew] Y[ork] University, where men and women are preparing for jobs in the Army or in industry, New York, N.Y. This model has been camouflaged and photographed. The girl is correcting oversights detected in the camouflaging of a model defense plant.” Photograph by Marjory Collins.

1943. “A view looking northeast from the fire tower manned by Barbara Mortensen, a fire and airplane lookout on Pine Mountain, Gorham vicinity, N.H.” Photograph by John Collier.

1941-1942. “Houses and factories.” Unknown Photographer.

1941-1942. “Christmas trees and wreaths in store window display.” Unknown Photographer.

1942. “Tomato crates at the Yauco cooperative tomato growers’ association, Puerto Rico.” Photograph by Jack Delano.

1941. “Farm Security Administration borrower plowing his garden with one of the few plows used on the island, vicinity of Frederiksted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands.” Photograph by Jack Delano.

1941. “‘Backstage’ at the ‘girlie’ show at the Vermont state fair, Rutland. Photograph by Jack Delano.

1940. “Men reading headlines posted in street-corner of Brockton Enterprise newspaper office, Brockton, Mass.” Photograph by Jack Delano.