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

FSA-OWI/Yale

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

FSA-OWI/Yale

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

FSA-OWI/Yale

$500,000 MATCHING GIFT

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

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.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

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

Donate

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.