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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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