10 Shots From an Incredible New Trove of Depression and World War II Photos

Travel back in time with more than 170,000 images by photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.


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

 

Deserted mining town. Zinc, Arkansas, 1935 Ben Shahn/FSA-OWI Collection

 

“Longshoremen’s lunch hour.” San Francisco, California, 1937 Dorothea Lange/FSA-OWI Collection

 

Japanese-American women interned at the Tule Lake Relocation Center. Newell, California, 1942 Unknown photographer/FSA-OWI Collection

 

“A shore patrol man and military policeman at the Greyhound bus terminal.” Indianapolis, Indiana, 1943. Esther Bubley/FSA-OWI Collection

 

A third-grader plays Adolf Hitler in a school production. New York, New York, 1942. Marjory Collins/FSA-OWI Collection

 

Army tank driver. Ft. Knox, Kentucky, 1942. Alfred T. Palmer/FSA-OWI Collection
 

“Monday morning, December 8, 1941, after Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.” San Francisco, California, 1941 John Collier/FSA-OWI Collection
 

The same intersection today Dave Gilson/Mother Jones

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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