John Vachon

John Vachon

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John Vachon was born in St-Paul, Minnesota, on 19th May 1914. After graduating from Cretin High School he studied at the University of St. Thomas. He graduated in 1934 and managed to find work as a filing clerk for the Farm Security Administration.

In 1936 Roy Stryker recruited him to join a small group of photographers working for the FSA. This group included Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, Mary Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Charlotte Brooks, Carl Mydans, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn. These photographers were employed to publicize the conditions of the rural poor in America.

During the Second World War he worked as a photographer for the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C. (1942-1943). He was also employed by the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

In 1947 Vachon became a staff photographer for Life Magazine. This was followed by employment with Look Magazine (1949-1971). After the closure of this magazine he became a freelance photographer and a visiting lecturer at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

John Vachon died in New York on 20th April 1975.

The misery which the slaves endure in consequence of too close a stowage is not easy to describe. I have heard them frequently complaining of heat, and have seen them fainting, almost dying for want of water. Their situation is worse in rainy weather. We do everything for them in our power. In all the vessels in which I have sailed in the slave trade, we never covered the gratings with a tarpawling, but made a tarpawling awning over the booms, but some were still panting for breath.

John Vachon for Look Magazine: The Brooklyn Nobody Knows

The Museum is in the midst of an ongoing project to catalog, process, and digitize its LOOK magazine photo archive collection. Though most of LOOK’s archives reside with the Library of Congress, MCNY holds those relating directly to New York City. This large collection dates from 1938 to 1968, and gives a literal picture of the city and the people in it through a remarkable variety of lenses, creating a striking impression of what it was like to be in one of the most exciting cities in the world at a time of constant change, strife, heartache, invention, entertainment, and growth.

John Vachon (1914-1975) was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and received a bachelor's degree in English literature from St. Thomas College at age 20. He began his career as a photographer working for Roy Stryker (1893-1975) at the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. Vachon became a staff photographer for LOOK magazine in 1947 and worked there for 25 years. His technical skill, dramatic composition, and talent for engaging his subjects often led editors to assign many of the most interesting stories to him. His photographs capture the subtle societal and cultural issues of the era within diverse narratives, and New York emerges as simultaneously the most American and the least American city in the nation.

LOOK assigned Vachon to the story “Brooklyn Nobody Knows” on September 21, 1948 it was published in the January 18, 1949 issue. By focusing on cultural institutions and figures, nightlife, historic landmarks, and civil engineering projects, Vachon’s photographs presented Brooklyn as on par with its more popularly represented neighbor, Manhattan. Highlights, below, show the types of people and places he investigated.

The Johannes Van Nuyse House was built around 1806 in the area of Brooklyn now known as Flatbush. When Vachon photographed the house at 150 Amersfort Place in 1948, it was one of the few remaining Dutch farmhouses in an area once heavily populated by the Dutch. The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) compiled a report on the house in 1934 and wrote, “While the land around it was for years given to farming it is now occupied principally by large apartment houses. This house, however, is on an undeveloped portion, vacant lots where the circus pitches its tents. Undoubtedly, houses and apartments will soon be built there also and the Van Nuyse house lost.” Neighboring Brooklyn College acquired it in 1949 and used it as a faculty house. As HABS anticipated, the Van Nuyse House was demolished in 1961, and the Amersfort Place lot is now populated with row houses.

Charles M. Gage opened a restaurant at 302 Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn in 1879. Eugene Tollner joined him as a business partner in 1884, and the establishment became known as Gage & Tollner. Gage & Tollner moved to 372 Fulton Street in 1889 and operated successfully there until 2004 when it closed. The building’s interior was designated a landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1975. In an article dated July 20, 2018, Robert Simonson of the New York Times reported that three restaurateurs had joined forces to reopen Gage & Tollner in 2019.

Subject/Index Terms

Repository: Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections

Access Restrictions: Open for inspection under the rules and regulations of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections.

Acquisition Method: The photographs were re-printed from the Standard Oil Collection, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Louisville, Kentucky 83-1202

Original/Copies Note: The original photographs and negatives are housed in the Standard Oil Collection, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Louisville, Kentucky. For more information please see

Finding Aid Revision History: Finding aid added to Archon in February 2013.

John Vachon

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Digital Resources 4

This edition of Digital Resources includes three collections of the Library of Congress:

At the Library of Congress website, I recently came across detailed plat maps of Turner, Hanson, Bon Homme, and Lincoln Counties from 1893, link here. They were published by Rowley & Peterson, a company from Vermillion, SD.

My favorite research maps for South Dakota towns are definitely those of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. Some libraries have digital access to map collections, but there are some of the nineteenth-century maps freely available on the Library of Congress, link here.

In 1939-1940, photographer John Vachon came through South Dakota for the Farm Security Administration and took photographs of many different subjects, including grand houses, churches, ranch landscapes, snowy streets, and a family at dinner. He went through Sisseton, Aberdeen, Roslyn, Pierre, Mellette County, Mission, Draper, Miller, Hyde County, Bowdle, Ipswich, Zell, Rockham, Faulk County, Doland, Clark County, Dewey County, Timber Lake, Trail City, Selby, Mobridge, Walworth County, Lemmon, White Butte, Ziebach County, Cressbard, Glenham, Orient, Rosebud, Perkins County, Northville, Corson County, Marvin, Lyman County, Murdo, Batesland, Pine Ridge reservation, and Keystone, link here.

Accessing historic images — like those of John Vachon — is much easier now, thanks to Yale Photogrammar

The majority of the photos shot in Minneapolis and St. Paul were taken by a photographer named John Vachon.

One of the marvels of life in the early 21st century is the ease of looking at historical materials that, even 10 years ago, would have required a trip to an archive. Visiting archives and looking at historical photos is already not terribly difficult – one can do so at the Minneapolis Central Library in either the picture files or in the Minneapolis Collection, or in the photography department offices at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, or in any number of places at the Minnesota Historical Society or the Hennepin History Museum or University of Minnesota. For years, the Star Tribune had picture files available, as well.

These are some of my favorite places in the Twin Cities to spend a free afternoon, whether looking for some specific piece of information, or just poking around, the graphic equivalent of wandering through an unfamiliar neighborhood to see what’s there. When I first moved to the Twin Cities, spending my underemployment idly thumbing through historic archives at the Hennepin History Museum and MNHS helped me put some background to the cities I was just getting to know.

A project like Yale Photogrammar, however, reminds you just how much more is out there, and how easy it is to find. Photogrammar is an online database of the thousands and thousands of photographs taken by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information photographers during the Depression and World War II. All the photos are tagged and organized by year, location, photographer and subject. To see these photos in a not-so-distant past would have required a visit to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress.

Organizing historic photographs online can be tricky, of course. There’s a million crappy “historic” photo blogs that fling black-and-white photos out into the torrent of social media with no context, attribution or background. That’s why a project like Photogrammar is important, in that it shows the photos, but also the context.

Photogrammar’s best feature is an interactive map that shows, county-by-county, where the photos were taken. Of course, if you’re like me, the first thing you’ll want to do is zero in on Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Here, one comes across hundreds of photos by several FSA photographers. The majority of them were taken by a photographer named John Vachon.

Vachon was a Minnesota native, a young man from St. Paul who turned a low-level summer bureaucratic job into a respected, fruitful life-long career. After graduating from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul in 1934, he moved to Washington, D.C., with his family to attend The Catholic University of America. While looking for summer employment, he took a position with the Farm Security Administration, filing, captioning and organizing photos in its D.C. office – first on a temporary basis, then as a permanent worker. The FSA employed dozens of photographers to travel around the United States and document both the Depression and the New Deal programs, creating some of the most iconic images of the era and launching the careers of many of the best-known American photographers of the 20th century. Vachon was in charge of maintaining “The File,” as it was known.

One of the FSA photographers he befriended was another Minnesotan in Washington, D.C., working with this office: Gordon Parks. In his memoir “Choice of Weapons,” Parks writes about Vachon: “John didn’t talk much, and you got the feeling he censored each thought before letting it go. But under his calm lay a dry, biting sense of humor. He was lean and long-jawed and, when his sandy hair was uncut, he looked like a Texas cattle wrangler.”

Not a photographer by background, spending so much time with the work of other photographers inspired Vachon to get involved himself. In 1937, he asked his boss if he could borrow a camera and take some photos around Washington, D.C. His work was good enough to get him a position as an FSA photographer. He said later in an interview: “My deepest and strongest and fondest memories of working there for five years I guess, six, something like that, are all connected with traveling around this country, seeing places that I’d never been before. I had traveled very little until that time, I’d only been from my native Minnesota to non-native Washington, and it was just great to be alone in a car and to be paid for driving around and taking pictures of what you liked to take pictures of.”

I like the story of Vachon’s background as a photographer, because it in some ways reflects the ideas of what something like Photogrammar makes possible today – that access to archival photography and materials can be inspiring and even transformative. “Being with it all the time, I sort of fell in love with it,” he later recalled about The File.

Vachon’s photos of Minneapolis and St. Paul are mostly around industry, taken around the fall of 1939, 75 years ago this month. He started photographing late enough to miss the depth of the Depression, so a lot of the photos from this leg of his cross-country trips capture the cities in the interstitial period between the worst of the Depression and the beginning of World War II. His photos depict the industrial landscape that still looks familiar — the grain elevators still dominate the urban landscape around the old milling districts along the Mississippi riverfront and near the University of Minnesota. Of course, the thing missing from these scenes today are the workers that activated those industries — loaders, butter testers, truck drivers, grain futures buyers, street preachers. He captures them not only engaged in their jobs, but also on breaks for lunch.

The interest in people is present – one senses Vachon’s quiet nature – but what’s striking is Vachon’s eye for the details of signage and architecture around the city. His instinct for capturing images on billboards and vernacular signage in particular are unerring. The idea of a quiet young man from St. Paul developing an eye for photography after a temp job looking at the work of others is maybe what helped develop that eye.

Ideally, there are young people looking at some of the photos that come across their social media transom today, whether through a project like Photogrammar, or another venue, like Historyapolis or the Hennepin County Library Tumblr or the great local photo and visual culture aggregator Stuff About Minneapolis.

In that same interview I mentioned above, Vachon recalls his exact thoughts when looking through the photographs in The File, including one that’s familiar to anyone who’s spent time with the photography of others: “I just sort of wondered, ‘Could I do this?’ ”

The title of Gordon Parks’ autobigraphy was incorrectly named in an earlier version of this piece. It’s been corrected.

Wikipedia:Featured pictures/History/USA History

Play media

Map of the night march from Malvern Hill to Harrison's Landing at Battle of Malvern Hill, by Robert Knox Sneden

Pullman Compartment Cars Through Trains at Pullman porter, by Strobridge & Co. Lith.

I-35W Mississippi River bridge after collapse, by Kevin Rofidal (edited by Papa Lima Whiskey)

Girl reading the July 21, 1969, edition of The Washington Post at Apollo 11 in popular culture, by Jack Weir (restored by CarolSpears)

DeSoto Discovering the Mississippi at Art and engraving on United States banknotes, by William Henry Powell and Frederick Girsch (restored by Godot13)

Baptism of Pocahontas at Art and engraving on United States banknotes, by John Gadsby Chapman and Charles Burt (restored by Godot13)

Embarkation of the Pilgrims at Art and engraving on United States banknotes, by Robert Walter Weir and W.W. Rice (restored by Godot13)

Declaration of Independence at Art and engraving on United States banknotes, by John Trumbull and Frederick Girsch (restored by Godot13)

Surrender of General Burgoyne at Art and engraving on United States banknotes, by John Trumbull and Frederick Girsch (restored by Godot13)

Washington Resigning his Commission at Art and engraving on United States banknotes, by John Trumbull, Luigi Delnoce and Frederick Girsch (restored by Godot13)

Altoona in 1895, by Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler and James B. Moyer (restored by Adam Cuerden)

Detroit in the 1880s at History of Detroit, by Calvert Lithographing Co. (restored by Adam Cuerden)

Wes Brady, former slave at Slave Narrative Collection, by Anonymous photographer of the Federal Writers' Project (edited by Chick Bowen)

Gift for the Grangers at National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, by Strobridge & Co. Lith.

The First Colored Senator And Representatives at African Americans in the United States Congress, by Currier and Ives (edited by Adam Cuerden)

Play media

Daisy, by Lyndon B. Johnson's presidential campaign

Demonstration of a Hollerith keypunch, author unknown (restored by Yann and Mmxx)

Bison skull pile at Bison hunting, author unknown (edited by Chick Bowen)

William McKinley campaign poster, by the Northwestern Litho. Co (edited by NativeForeigner)

California Trail at Humboldt River, by Daniel A. Jenks (edited by Papa Lima Whiskey and Julia W)

Political illustration of the 1880 Republican National Convention, by James Albert Wales and Mayer, Merkel, & Ottmann (edited by Jujutacular)

New York's New Solar System at Political machine, by Udo J. Keppler (edited by Jujutacular)

Henry Clay addressing the United States Senate at Compromise of 1850, by Peter F. Rothermel and R. Whitechurch (edited by Jbarta and Durova)

Execution of the Lincoln assassination conspirators at Capital punishment by the United States federal government, by Alexander Gardner (edited by Durova)

Battle of Churubusco, by John Cameron and Nathaniel Currier (edited by Durova)

Contenders for the Whig Party nomination in 1848, by Nathaniel Currier (edited by Durova & Adam Cuerden)

Pentagon crash site at September 11 attacks, by Sgt. Cedric H Rudisill

Ruins of the United States Capitol at Burning of Washington, by George Munger (edited by Durova)

Lynching, by the National Photo Company (edited by Durova)

Salem witch trials, by Joseph E. Baker (edited by Durova)

Easter Monday at the White House, by Harris & Ewing (edited by Durova)

Robert McGee at Scalp reconstruction, by E.E. Henry (edited by Mvuijlst)

Child labor at glass and bottle factories at National Child Labor Committee, by Lewis Hine (edited by Mvuijlst)

Gerrymandering, by Elkanah Tisdale (edited by Wadester16)

Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat shortly after the Camp David Accords, unknown author (edited by Durova)

William McKinley's last speech at Assassination of William McKinley, by Charles Dudley Arnold (edited by Durova)

Military College of Chapultepec at Chapultepec Castle, by Nathaniel Currier (edited by Durova)

Aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre, by Trager & Kuhn (edited by Durova)

Colored entrance of the Crescent Theatre at Racial segregation in the United States, by Marion Post Wolcott (edited by Durova)

Pulaski in 1885, by Lucien R. Burleigh (edited by Durova)

Brooklyn in 1879, by C.R. Parsons (edited by Durova)

Caledonia in 1892, by Burleigh Litho. Co. (edited by Durova)

American imperialism, by Samuel D. Ehrhart (edited by Durova)

George Wallace stands at the door of the Foster Auditorium at Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, by Warren K. Leffler (edited by Calliopejen1)

Segregated drinking fountain at Racial segregation, by John Vachon (edited by Durova)

Play media

Gerald Ford at the pardon of Richard Nixon, by Thomas J. O'Halloran (edited by Durova)

Seals of the U.S. states in 1876, by A.J. Connell

Iowa and Nebraska lands sale advertisement at History of Iowa, by Burlington and Missouri River Railroad (edited by Durova)

1775 map of Boston at History of Boston, by Thomas Hyde Page (edited by Durova)

Dallas in 1912 at History of Dallas (1874–1929), Johnson & Rogers (edited by Durova)

Editorial cartoon, by Joseph E. Baker (edited by Durova)

Tulsa in 1909, by Clarence Jack (edited by Mfield)

Meeting prior to the Convention of Kanagawa, author unknown (edited by Adam Cuerden)

World Trade Center ruins at Collapse of the World Trade Center, by Preston Keres

Fire in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by H. D. Chadwick (edited by Durova)

John Wilkes Booth wanted poster at Index (typography), author unknown (edited by Childzy)

Whipped Mississippi slave at Slavery in the United States, by McPherson and Oliver

Iran hostage crisis protest, by Marion S. Trikosko

Fallen statue of Louis Agassiz at 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by Frank Davey (edited by trialsanderrors)

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at Civil rights movement, by Warren K. Leffler

Visions Within Visions

Carleton Thomas Anderson is a 74 year old retired physician interested in photography, design, writing and history. He and his wife Anne call Lexington home. They have two children and two grandchildren. “My main diversions are horses, bicycling, Nepalese food and reading,” says Anderson. “We watch West Wing every election cycle hoping to rekindle our optimism. We are currently watching it for the fifth time.”

UnderMain was tipped about Anderson’s work in blending photography, art and video by Neil Kesterson, owner of Dynamix Productions in Lexington, the studio where much of the audio you will soon hear was recorded. Kesterson mentioned that Anderson had been engaged in a unique pursuit: discovering the elements of street photography, his genre of choice, in the paintings of certain noted artists.

We were intrigued. Questions followed.

UnderMain: What inspired you to take up street photography?

Anderson: To me the best portraits are of people unaware of the camera. On the street there is a greater chance for such candid shots. Also, the street is a public place where the photographer has a great deal of latitude about what is permitted. I’ve been inspired by street photographers like Saul Leiter and Vivian Maier . What I’ve learned from them over the years is that I have to spend a great deal of time walking to get very few photographs of any value. This is just the nature of the beast.

UnderMain: What’s in your camera bag?

Anderson: A Sony a6000 with Sony 24 mm f1.8

UnderMain: In what ways has the pursuit of an interest in street photography served you?

Anderson: Street photography has definitely made me a better person because I’ve had to decide what photographs of people should be made and what photographs should not be made. I’m talking about ethical choices. Do you take a picture of a homeless person? Do you take a picture of a person in a vulnerable situation? Are you simply taking a photograph to exploit somebody else? The photographs I take must reveal something important about the human condition or something interesting about the built environment of the street (architecturally interesting shots).

Photo by Carleton Thomas Anderson

UnderMain: What do you strive for in the images that you capture?

Anderson: Trying to find something interesting to reveal about the human condition is one of the most difficult kinds of photography there is. I’ve learned to be less fixated on what camera I have and what settings I’m using and more attentive to what my eye sees. I want to see something spontaneous, revealing, and visually interesting. This takes a lot of work.

UnderMain: Is there a connection between your interest in street photography and the concept of the videos you have produced about certain artists and their works?

Anderson: During the Great Depression the United States government funded a project where photographers would fan out across the country and photograph the effects the depression was having on people. These photographs are public and available to anyone to use for whatever purpose. They can be obtained from the Library of Congress website. As a result of this easy access I spent a lot of time looking at the photographs and grew to value the work of some of the photographers. To make a video I needed not only the photographs but other material that would make for an interesting story. In the 60s the government funded interviews with some of the depression era photographers and this provided narrative for a video about the photographers work. The three most interesting photographers were Ben Shahn, Dorothea Lange, and John Vachon. For John Vachon I had letters he wrote home from the field to his wife Penny. These letters together with material from interviews provided the basis for his video. In the course of getting permission to use John’s letters I had an opportunity to speak with his daughter, Ann. This added further context. All these government photographs were taken out in the field and on the street so they fit beautifully with my interest in street photography.

UnderMain: What motivates you to produce these videos?

Anderson: I’m very curious about these photographers I mentioned. Making a video answers a lot of my questions about their lives and gives me insight into their art. Without the video I wouldn’t really have a firm grasp on what they were trying to accomplish. The videos on Édouard Manet and Edward Hopper interested me because they were paint artists who focused a lot of their attention on street images and had interesting lives. In particular the video on Edward Hopper includes a lot of material from letters his wife, Josephine, wrote about their marriage and his art.

UnderMain: What’s the criteria used to select the artists portrayed in the videos?

Anderson: The artists I selected had to have interesting stories to go along with their photographs. Their personal stories have to add to our understanding of their art.

UnderMain: How many videos have you produced?

UnderMain: Can you briefly describe the process you follow in putting them together?

Anderson: First, I have to write the narrative keeping in mind what photographs or artwork I have available to use. I then use the images over the narrative to tell the story. Next, I select music appropriate to go along with the finished video. I have used my own voice for many of these. In the Dorothea Lange video my wife, Anne, provided the voice for Dorothea.

However, once I learned about the availability of professional voice talent in Lexington from my friend Neil Kesterson and the services his studio ( Dynamix Productions ) could provide me I began using professional voices. I’ve never looked back. It will have to be professional voice talent from now on.

UnderMain: Favorites among them?

Anderson: Ben Shahn and Dorothea Lange. The two videos about the paint artists, Edward Hopper and Edward Manet are particular favorites.

UnderMain: Do you plan to continue? If so, what other artists are on your “to do” list?

Anderson: None, right now. I’ve taken time off from photography to write a novel about the Great Depression inspired by my immersion in the photographs from this fascinating era in American History.

Photo by Carleton Thomas Anderson


UnderMain would like to thank The Great Meadows Foundation for support of our programming, particularly as COVID-19 continues to change our programming goals.

UnderMain thanks you as well for the ongoing support. Remember your contribution is tax deductible.

Holes Punched Through History

In 1935, Roy Stryker became the head of the Information Division of the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA), documenting work done by the government to help poor farmers and their families during the Great Depression. Over the course of a decade, the scope of the FSA’s photographic subjects broadened, then transitioned to a war footing in the 1940s, becoming part of the Office of War Information. The resulting collection of more than 175,000 images remains a national treasure—a snapshot of American life during a difficult time. In the early years, Stryker himself reviewed and edited photographs mailed in by FSA photographers, and would often “kill” a photo he disapproved of (remove it from consideration for publishing) by punching a hole right through the negative. The photographers were unhappy with this destructive hole-punch method, and frequently let Stryker know, but he didn’t stop until about 1939. Recent digitization efforts have made nearly all of the FSA/OWI photos available to the public, showing defects, hole-punches, and all. Some of the punched images were duplicates, but many were unique, and are now lost.

Untitled image, unidentified photographer. Taken between 1935 and 1942. #

"Frenchy," caretaker of the old lumber camp, Gemmel, Minnesota. August, 1937. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: South River, old high school at traffic junction, New Jersey. February, 1936. #

Untitled image, unidentified photographer. Taken between 1935 and 1942. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to narby photo captioned: Negro rehabilitation client, Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. September, 1935. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Ball team at Irwinville Farms, Georgia. May, 1938. #

Family of a rehabilitation client, Boone County, Arkansas. October, 1935. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Corner of general store, Ericsburg, Minnesota. August, 1937. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Tobacco lands after the Connecticut River had subsided near Hatfield, Massachusetts. Photographed in 1936. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Inhabitants of Marked Tree, Arkansas. October, 1935. #

Southwest Washington, D.C. November, 1937. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Resettlement Administration representative at door of rehabilitation client's house, Jackson County, Ohio. April, 1936. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: The Pope family, Irwinville Farms, Georgia. May, 1938. #

Young Indian mother and baby, blueberry camp, near Little Fork, Minnesota. August, 1937. #

Untitled image, unidentified photographer. Taken between 1935 and 1942. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Farmer, Irwinville Farms, Georgia. May, 1938. #

Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Street scene, Saturday afternoon in Jackson, Ohio. April, 1936. #

Sharecropper's wife and children, Arkansas. August, 1935. #

Untitled image, unidentified photographer. Taken between 1935 and 1942. #

Pupil in rural school. Williams County, North Dakota. November, 1937. #

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35 Depression Era Photos That Put American History into Perspective

Major works and never-before-seen snapshots are on display in a new 170,000-piece library.

In 1937, Congress transformed a dysfunctional, New Deal agency into The Farm Security Administration. The plan: rehabilitate America's rural communities by buying out failing farms and setting up subsistence homestead communities. The mission wasn't easy&mdashnot only did the FSA have to invest in and educate impoverished citizens, the federal organization had to convince onlookers back in Washington the pursuit was worth the money. To combat bad press, the FSA hired photographers to roam the country and document the dilapidated reality. Now, thanks to Yale University and the National Endowment for the Arts, 170,000 of these photographic artifacts are now available for public consumption. Below you'll find prints from legendary photographers like John Vachon, Arthur Rothstein, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, artists who helped color an America existence in stark black and white.

Watch the video: John Vachon of Urban Synergy discusses Downtown Kingsport redevelopment