Between 1935 and 1944, the Farm Security Agency-Office of War Information dispatched photographers to all ends of the United States to document life during hard times and wartime. Many of their photos, taken by now-legendary photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, have become iconic representations of America during the Depression and World War II. But most of the hundreds of thousands of negatives, collected in what became known as "The File," were never seen by the public.
No longer. Yale University's Photogrammar has just made more than 170,000 of the FSA-OWI photos easily accessible online. You can browse and search by photographer, location, date, or subject. Even a quick visit to the site turns up surprising, searing photos that feel like they should be in history books, on the cover of old LIFE magazines, or hanging in art galleries. Here are 10 that caught my eye as I looked through the massive collection—including one taken less than a block from the Mother Jones office in downtown San Francisco.
Riveter at a military aircraft factory. Fort Worth, Texas, 1942 Howard R. Hollem/FSA-OWI Collection
"Wife of Negro sharecropper." Lee County, Mississippi, 1935 Arthur Rothstein/FSA-OWI Collection
"Backyard slum scene" with the US Capitol in the background. Washington, D.C., 1935 Carl Mydans/FSA-OWI Collection
Amid the raging, only-in-August debate over whether it is ever okayto reclineyour airplane seat, a good dose of schadenfreude has been directed at the vertically advantaged, as summed up by this tweet from one of my own bosses:
Tall people: the pain you feel when someone reclines their airline seat is a small taste of your lifelong privilege: http://t.co/up4wZ5Caql
It's true: Being of above average height, particularly if you're a man, does come with significant perks beyond having your own weather patterns. As a 2004 paper on the economic advantages of height explains, researchers have found that taller people are seen as more persuasive, more attractive, and more likely to become leaders: "Indeed, on the latter point, not since 1896 have U.S. citizens elected a President whose height was below average; William McKinley at 5 ft 7 in. (1.7 m) was ridiculed in the press as a 'little boy'." That paper calculated that a 6-foot-tall person can expect to earn $166,000 more over a 30-year career than someone who is 5-foot-5. In another 2004 article, researchers concluded that "a sizable fraction of the population" might consider taking Human Growth Hormone as teenagers to ensure bigger paychecks as adults. (They estimate that teens see a 1.9 to 2.6 percent increase in future earnings for every additional inch of height.)
That tall dudes get an extra leg up in the job market is borne out by data from the Centers for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a survey of more than 500,000 Americans' health and demographics.
The average American adult male is 5-foot-9. According to a crosstabulation of the CDC's 2011 data, men of slightly below-average height are at an income disadvantage: Around 28 percent of men between 5'5" and 5'8" earn $35,000 or less, compared with 19 percent of men between 5'9" and 6'0". And at the other end of the scale, 56 percent of men between 5'5" and 5'8" earn $50,000 or more, compared with 66 percent of men between 5'9" and 6'0".
And the really tall guys tower over everyone else: Just 5 percent of them earn less than $20,000, and nearly 69 percent earn $50,000 or more. And the really short guys have it rough: 35 percent earn less than $20,000 while 23 percent earn $50,000 or more.
The height-income gap for women isn't quite so stark—or predictable. The average height for women is 5-foot-4. Around 31 percent of women between 5'1" and 5'4" earn $35,000 or less, compared with around 26 percent of women between 5'5" and 5'8". And 53 percent of women between 5'1" and 5'4" earn $50,000 or more, compared with 58 percent of women between 5'5" and 6'8".
Yet unlike men, women beyond a certain height pay a penalty. Women between 5'5" and 5'8" are more likely to earn more than $50,000 than women over six feet. And, surprisingly, women over six feet are more likely to earn less than $20,000 than women of average height. However, women under 5'1" are far more likely to earn less than $35,000 than taller women. But compared to their male counterparts, they do better—they're more likely than the very shortest men to earn more than $75,000.
What does any of this have to do with modern air travel? Nothing. Just don't be a jerk.
The Webley Mark VI revolver that police said Dowlut dug up in the South Bend City Cemetery
For all its bluster, the National Rifle Association also knows how to maintain a disciplined silence in the face of uncomfortable questions. Most notably, it went to ground in the wake of the Newtown school shooting in December 2012, resurfacing after a few days with bland talking points, followed by Wayne LaPierre's assertion that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that in the week since I published an investigation into the complicated past of the NRA's top lawyer, the gun lobby has not responded.
The subject of my article, NRA general counsel Robert J. Dowlut, is a low-profile yet influential legal expert who has spent more than 35 years pushing for an aggressively broad interpretation of the Second Amendment. In 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison for shooting his girlfriend's mother in South Bend, Indiana. Several years later, the conviction was reversed due to bad police work, and Dowlut eventually walked free.
Before I reported on Dowlut's background, I contacted him 10 times by phone, email, and registered mail, explaining what I was writing about and inviting him to share his side of the story. When I did not hear from him, I asked the NRA and its public affairs head, AndrewArulanandam, for comment multiple times. I also sent registered letters directly to NRA leaders, including executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, president Jim Porter, and lobbying head Chris Cox. None responded.
If Dowlut or the NRA do decide to talk, here are the four questions I'd most like them to answer:
1. Did Dowlut ever disclose his past to his colleagues or the NRA? So far, none of Dowlut's colleagues and friends have come forward to talk about what they did or didn't know. David Hardy, a prominent gun rights writer who's known Dowlut "longer than I can remember" told me he had "no idea" about Dowlut's previous conviction and reversal. Other gun rights groups and bloggers have also been conspicuously silent since the story ran.
2. How did Dowlut's experience influence his career? Dowlut's writings strongly suggest that his legal odyssey played a role in shaping his philosophy. In a 1983 article, he disapprovingly cited Supreme Court Justice Byron White's dissent in Mirandav. Arizona, a case very similar to his own. White had predicted that protecting criminal suspects' rights "will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets." Did Dowlut's position—that gun rights are another essential defense against official overreach—stem from his time as the accused? Did this stance put Dowlut at odds with the NRA's tough-on-crime talking points? (Consider that the NRA's president from 1992 to 1994 was Robert Corbin, the prosecutor who made a point of retrying Ernesto Miranda after the landmark 1966 Supreme Court decision bearing his name. Corbin also served as the vice chairman of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund; Dowlut is the fund's longtime secretary.)
3. Did Dowlut ever disclose his past to the bar? Several readers have asked if Dowlut disclosed his experience as a criminal defendant while applying for admission to the bar. (He was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1980 and is also a member of the Virginia Bar.) I don't know: Bar applications are confidential, and it's not clear what was asked on the character and fitness sections of the DC and Virginia Bar applications four decades ago. Currently, the DC Bar asks applicants to disclose all previous arrests, charges, and convictions, even for matters that have been dismissed or expunged. The Virginia Bar asks applicants to disclose any involvement in criminal proceedings (including juvenile cases and traffic offenses). Assuming that Dowlut faced similar questions when he became a lawyer, how did he respond?
4. What really happened 51 years ago in South Bend? The South Bend police still consider the murder of Anna Marie Yocum on the night of April 15, 1963, to be an open case. Most of the main characters involved in Dowlut's murder trial are dead; the victim's daughter is alive, but refused to speak with me. The court records I obtained, while voluminous, offer competing narratives that leave a trail of nagging questions: The police interviewed several other potential suspects—what were they asked, and why were they released? If Dowlut had no knowledge of the crime, how was he able to lead detectives to a buried gun allegedly linked to it? Whom did the gun belong to? And finally, what does Dowlut think actually happened on that night?
As part of the reporting for "The NRA's Murder Mystery", Mother Jones obtained a 2,100-page court file that includes a transcript of Robert Dowlut's 1964 murder trial, documents related to his appeal, and the Indiana Supreme Court's 1968 decision to reverse his conviction and order a new trial. Key records and excerpts are posted below, along with additional court and police documents mentioned in the article.