Historic Color Photos of U.S. Life in the 1940s
These vivid color photos from the Great Depression and World War II capture an era generally seen only in black-and-white. Photographers working for the United States Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI) created the images between 1940 and 1944.
The FSA/OWI pictures depict life in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with a focus on rural areas and farm labor, as well as aspects of World War II mobilization, including factories, railroads, aviation training, and women working.
Below you will find a small selection of images from this incredible gallery by the Library of Congress. The Sifter encourages you to check out their awesome Flickr page with tens of thousands of incredible historic photographs. Enjoy!
2. Houston, Texas – May, 1943
3.Hump Master in Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Yard – December, 1942
Hump master in a Chicago and Northwestern railroad yard operating a signal switch system which extends the length of the hump track. He is thus able to control movements of locomotives pushing the train over the hump from his post at the hump office.
4. Illinois Central Railroad Freight Terminal, Chicago – April, 1943
5. News Headlines Posted on Window of Newspaper Office – December, 1940
News headlines posted in the street-corner window of a newspaper office (Brockton Enterprise) in Brockton, Massachusetts.
6. Chopping Cotton in Greene County, Georgia – June, 1941
Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Georgia. Photograph taken June, 1941 by Jack Delano.
7. Parachute Training in Fort Worth, Texas – January, 1942
Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots at Meacham field in Fort Worth, Texas (Jan., 1942). Photograph by Arthur Rothstein.
8. Children Playing in Washington, D.C. – c 1941-42
9. Mountains along the Skyline Drive in Virginia – c 1940
10. Proviso Railroad Yard in Chicago, Illinois – December, 1942
11. Blacksmith in Blue Island, Illinois – April, 1943
John Kelseh, blacksmith, at his forge in the blacksmith shop at the roundhouse, Rock Island R.R., Blue Island, Illinois. Photograph by Jack Delano in April, 1943.
12. Navy plane machine gun installation in Texas – August, 1942
Jesse Rhodes Waller, A.O.M., third class, tries out a 30-calibre machine gun he has just installed on a Navy plane, Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Photograph by Howard R. Hollem in August of 1942.
13. Barrage balloon in Parris Island, South Carolina – May, 1942
14. Catholic Church in Llano de San Juan, New Mexico – July, 1940
15. Oat Field in Georgia – c 1940
16. Cherry Orchards and Farm Lands in Emmett, Idaho – July, 1941
17. Houses and Factories
18. Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Shop in Chicago – December, 1942
19. Pennsylvania Railroad iron ore docks in Cleveland – May, 1943
Unloading a lake freighter at the Pennsylvania Railroad iron ore docks by means of Hulett unloaders, Cleveland, Ohio. In the foreground, empty cars are waiting to pass under the unloaders to pick up their loads. Photograph by Jack Delano in May of 1943.
20. Sailor Testing Chemical Warfare Suit – August, 1942
Sailor at the Naval Air Base wears the new type protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare, Corpus Christi, Texas. These uniforms are lighter than the old type. Photograph by Howard R. Hollem in August of 1942.
21. ‘Juke Joint’ for Migratory Workers in Belle Glade, Florida – Feb., 1941
Living quarters and “juke joint” for migratory workers, a slack season; Belle Glade, Florida. Photograph by Marion Post Wolcott in February of 1941.
22. Shepherd with Horse & Dog in Madison County, Montana – August, 1942
23. Fruit Store & Capital Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska – 1942
24. Retiring a Locomotive Drive Wheel in Fort Madison, Iowa – March, 1943
Retiring a locomotive driver wheel in the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway locomotive shops, Shopton, near Fort Madison, Iowa. The tire is heated by means of gas until it can be slipped over the wheel. Contraction on cooling will hold it firmly in place. Santa Fe R.R. Photograph by Jack Delano.
25. Roundhouse at Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Yard – Dec., 1942
26. Switchman Signal Demonstration in Calumet, Ill. – January, 1943
Indiana Harbor Belt RR, switchman demonstrating signal with a “fusee” – used at twilight and dawn – when visibility is poor. This signal means “stop.” Calumet City, Illinois. Photograph by Jack Delano.
27. Santa Fe RR Locomotive Shop in Topeka, Kansas – March, 1943
28. Illinois Central Railroad – April, 1943
Illinois Central R.R., freight cars at the South Water Street freight terminal, Chicago, Ill. The C & O and Nickel Plate Railroads lease part of this terminal from the I.C.R.R. Photograph by Jack Delano.
29. Assembly & Repair Department at Navy Air Base in Texas – Aug., 1942
Mrs. Doris Duke, who is 26 and a mother of one child, Corpus Christi, Texas. Mrs. Duke is a civil service worker in the Assembly and Repair deptartment at the Navy Air Base (shot – reconditioning spark plugs). Photograph by Howard R. Hollem.
30. J.D. Estes at the Naval Air Base in Corpus Christi, Texas – Aug., 1942
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