From the LOC archives: Photos of the 30’s & 40’s

2179930812_1c734d4726 Over the weekend I discovered the Library of Congress flickr page. There’s thousands of photos, the ones I’ve seen thus far are from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Some are candids but I can’t help but think others were staged or scripted -as in the case of the one at right. Look how she’s dressed for work at her job checking electrical sub-assemblies. While it’s certain people dressed much better for work in those days, her blouse, hair, lipstick, pen -they all match. The level of detail is amazing. You can see this woman’s freckles.

2179910066_7ccb600368 Back to staging, much of it was political as one would presume considering the time. The ones taken of school children during WW2 are incongruous today with political overtones. In the background of this photo of the three boys is a poster that reads “Schools at War”.

The captions are original and tell another story. Forgive my post feminism but I can only be amused by descriptions of women working in factories. In photo after photo, each woman is described in the context of her relationship to men and her function. Such as, “Mrs. Angeline Kwint, age 45, an ex-housewife… Her husband and son are in the U.S. Army” or “Enola O’Connell, age 32, widow and mother of one child. Ex-housewife”. And this woman didn’t even merit her own name. She was described as “War production worker making guns for the U.S. Army. Ex-housewife, age 49, Son is Second Lt, Son-in-law, Captain in Army”. It is odd to read these captions today; wasn’t it conceivable that women might have been motivated to work owing to their inherent patriotism and economic interest? I wonder how Queen Elizabeth was described during WW2, perhaps “daughter of a nation at war, drives truck”. By the way, she’s the only sitting head of a nation who is a WW2 veteran. She joined the British Army the day she turned 18.

les_thomas_pie_town As ever, clothing is a testament to the times in many ways. This photo of Les Thomas, homesteader from Pie Town, New Mexico in 1940 is arresting. He’s wearing genuine Levi’s 501’s. Considering the mended shirt and broken buttons on his vest, I don’t think fancy designer denims would have withstood the treatment he was prepared to put them through. His coat is a hair on sheep. You don’t see that much these days.

Hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane, for many of us, times we never knew. And check out the clothes, there’s some great details. I love the bodice detail of this one. And recycling is nothing new either. Here’s a photo of Annette del Sur accessorizing with salvage (great outfit too). I kid, I kid but I have no doubt that some enterprising people today would think nothing of using this scrap metal as is. A bit sharp tho, bringing new meaning to “edgy” fashion.

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