These Photos Capture How Americans Celebrated the Holidays 80 Years Ago

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

OSI-WPA/Yale

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

FSA-OWI/Yale

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

FSA-OWI/Yale

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

FSA-OWI/Yale

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

FSA-OWI/Yale

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

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

FSA-OWI/Yale

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

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

FSA-OWI/Yale