1940’s Kodachrome

From 1939 to 1945 the Farm Security Administration, and later the Office of War Information, sent photographers out across the United States to catalog life, work, and the war effort. The photos are now in the Library of Congress, who maintains a wonderful online digital database of them.


I’ve posted a lot of LOC photos over the years, and I am drawn to these particilar FSA/OWI images again and again. They are Kodachrome Color Slides of the early 1940’s, an era we usually only see in Black & White. They show a country in transition in the middle of the 20th century, on the cusp of the great post war boom, and seismic shifts in demographics.


A lot of the photos are posed propaganda shots, which are beautiful in their own way. But I am drawn to the candid shots, and the seeming throwaway shots of everyday life. The details are amazing, and it is the little things like grease paint in a shop window advertising 1 cent oranges, that transport me into the wayback machine.


So come along with Sherman and Peabody as we turn back the dial.



Farm girls at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland. Look at those lovely homemade dresses. Hard to believe there was a time when sewing was a necessity, not a hobby.

Second hand plumbing parts store in Brockton, Mass. - Photo by the amazing Jack Delano

Men in hats "browsing the internet" (reading headlines in the window of the daily newpaper office, Brockton MA

Illinois Central Freight Terminal, Chicago - (Note the coal soot blackened skyscrapers. And we complain about air quality)

Men at work on Locomotive Boiler, CNW Shops Chicago

Yes, this is posed and lit, but what a photo! Welder at Combustion Engineering (my old company) in Chattanooga

Grocery Store - Lincoln, Nebraska

Near the waterfront, New Bedford, MA. - This photo pretty much represents my mood from January to April,

8 thoughts on “1940’s Kodachrome

  1. My wife’s grandmother supported her family as a seamstress. She made most of the wedding dresses ans formal gowns in the town. When we were first married my wife made my shirts and even neckties (remember those?) which I needed for work – even a sports coat or two. She did very professional work.

    • Neck ties have gone the way of the fedora and the three martini lunch. It amazes me how much the business world has changed in my 20 years out of college. Eventually we’ll be wearing our jammies around the office.

  2. Momma Don’t take my kodachrome away. I love these pics but I struggle with the long lost art of real film and the time and patience it used to take to lovingly craft, shoot, develop and print a simple image.
    In the digital age I can snap it and upload it for the masses in ten seconds flat and I worry that it takes the love out of it.
    Although anyone who’s struggled for two hours in a pitch dark room transferring a role of film from the cannister reel to the development tank might disagree.

    • I’ve been looking for a “Kodachrome App” that can take my digital pictures and give them that vibrancy that old Kodachrome film had. Someone needs to get on that STAT!

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