From 1935 to 1945, photographers like Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Ben Shahn were hired by the federal government to travel the United States, capturing images of Americans at work, play, rest, and worship. The project began as an effort to build public support for portions of the New Deal aimed at helping poor farmers, but the photographers also visited cities and towns. And after Pearl Harbor, they documented a nation at war as well.
It’s a fascinating collection, made more accessible by an ongoing project at Yale University, Photogrammar. Using a variety of visualization and mapping techniques, Photogrammar is a great resource for those interested in this era in American history.
To give you some sense of the collection, and to help our readers imagine WWII America beyond Bethel, here are a few images from Minnesota:
Most of the Minnesotan pictures in the collection (including the one here of the Brownton draft board) were taken by the photographer John Vachon, a native of St. Paul who took a job with the Farm Security Administration after graduating from St. Thomas. Four of those featured in the gallery above were taken by Vachon’s colleague Jack Delano, a Russian immigrant better known for his photos of Puerto Rico.