These Photos Capture How Americans Celebrated the Holidays 80 Years Ago

Scenes from a trove of Depression and World War II images.


Some of the most legendary images of America during the 1930s and 1940s were taken by photographers working for the Farm Security Agency-Office of War Information. The New Deal agency employed photographers like Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, and Walker Evans. The agency’s more than 170,000 photos, which are archived include many holiday scenes; here are few that show Americans shopping, celebrating, traveling, and making the best of tough times.

Shoppers and children at the R.H. Macy department store, New York City, December 1942. Photographs by Marjory Collins


A Christmas tree over the door of a bar in Philadelphia, 1938. Photograph by Paul Vanderbilt


Children eating Christmas dinner on a farm near Smithfield, Iowa, December 1936. Photograph by Russell Lee


Farm children wrapping presents, near Dickens, Iowa, December 1936. Photograph by Russel Lee


A woman at midnight mass on Christmas Eve in New York City, 1942. Photograph by Marjory Collins 1942


Scenes from the Christmas rush at the Greyhound bus depot in Washington, D.C., December 1941. Photographs by John Collier.


Mr. and Mrs. Di Costanzo at their New York City restaurant on New Year’s Eve, December 1942. Photograph by Marjory Collins


Children blowing horns on Bleecker Street on New Year’s Day. Photographs by Marjory Collins



Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.