Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupations & Jobs In the Late 1930s to Early 1940s: A Picture Narrative



By: Dianne Heath

  
Exploring the Jobs and Employment that Thrived in the 1930s to 1940s
The jobs and occupations in the late 1930s to early 1940s reflect a time when ordinary citizens once again had to do the extraordinary to stabilize America. America was slowly digging ourselves out the Great Depression, women got a taste of life outside the home at their new careers, the military was doing their job to secure our freedom in the brutal World War II and the New Deal helped to lift many hardworking Americans from debilitating poverty. Propaganda was at its height, dictators were wielding their power to the greatest extent, marginalized populations suffered in containment or death camps which were used to suppress dissent and initiate mass murder. It was an interesting time indeed. Through it all, Americans sacrificed their well-being to work at jobs that were uncomfortable, grimy, mentally exhausting and physically taxing so that America could have a bright future. These photos, depicting the Great Depression and World War II, were generously provided by the Library of Congress. They wanted to spread awareness about the collection and educate the public about this time period, so there are no  copyright restrictions. The collection was originally in black-and-white and produced by the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information. But now the photos are digitized to reveal the actual color. As a result the pictures are definitely more realistic, detailed and striking. The overall collection that I obtained my photos featured the labor to support the war time effort, the lifestyle in rural America and  the jobs in the farming/agricultural sector. You can check out the full collection, where I got these photos, at: Flickr-The Library of Congress and the 171,000 black-and-white photos at Library of Congress.

Farmers/Agriculture
Shepherd with horse & dog in Gravelly Range, Madison County, Montana, 1942

Mr. Leatherman, a homesteader, typing cauliflower in Pie Town, New Mexico (LOC),1940
Farmers in Georgia spreading fertilizer on an oat field, 1940



House, Houston, Texas, 1943 Transporting agricultural goods.
Factories, Plants and Mills
Mill at the Camp Bird Mine, Ouray County Colorado, 1941

Electric phosphate smelting furnace used in the making of elemental phosphorus in a TVA chemical plant in the Muscle Shoals area, Alabama, 1942
Partly finished open hearth furnaces and stacks for a steel mill under construction which will soon be producing vitally needed steel, Columbia Steel Co., Geneva, Utah, 1939
Railroad cars and factory building in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1939
Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas, 1942
Entertainment
"Backstage" at the "girlie" show at the Vermont State Fair, Rutland, 1941
Guide at Little Norway, Blue Mounds Wisconsin, 1942
Tying a ribbon on a calf's tail was one of the feature attractions at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair rodeo, 1939
Pilots
Instructor and students studying a map, Meacham Field, Forth Worth, Texas, 1942
Marine Lieutenant pilot with the power towing plane for the training gliders at
Page Field, Parris Island South Carolina, 1942
Lieutenant "Mike" Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach California, 1942
Mechanics, Technicians and Construction Workers 
Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, Calif. Shown checking electrical assemblies, 1942
Feeding an SNC advanced training plane its essential supply of gasoline is done by sailor mechanics at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. 1942

Mechanic doing motor maintenance section, Ft. Knox, Ky., 1939

A carpenter at the TVA's new Douglas dam on the French Broad River, Tenn. This dam will be 161 feet highand 1,682 feet ong, with a 31,600-acre reservoir area extending 43 miles upstream. With a useful storagecapacity of approximately 1,330,000 acre-feet, this reservoir will make possible the addition of nearly 100,000 kw. of continuous power to the TVA system in dry years and almost 170,000 kw. in the average year, 1939
Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif., 1942
Women become skilled shop technicians after careful training in the school at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant,Long Beach, Calif. Most important of the many types of aircraft made at this plant are the B-17F ("Flying Fortress")heavy bomber, the A-20 ("Havoc") assault bomber and the C-47 heavy transport plane for the carrying of troops and cargo, 1942
Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif. 1942
Scientists
Laboratory worker at the research laboratory at the C & W;  NW RR's 40th Street yard, examining paint samples used on freight cars and coaches of the railroad, Chicago, Ill, 1942
Geologist examining cuttings from wildcat well, Amarillo, Texas, 1943
Mental and Physical Health Care Professional
Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis has been appointed by civil service to be senior supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. She buoys up feminine morale in her department by arranging suitable living conditions for out-of-state employees and by helping them with their personal problems, 1942
Dr. Schreiber of San Augustine giving a typhoid innoculation at a rural school, San Augustine County, Texas, 1939
Design 
Painting the American insignia on airplane wings is a job that Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy a former office worker,does with precision and patriotic zeal. Mrs. McElroy is a civil service employeeat the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Her husband is a flight instructor, 1942
The utmost precision is required of these operators who are cutting and drilling parachute packs in an eastern factory, Manchester, Conn. Their work is under constant close supervision. Pioneer Parchute Company, 1942
Ground and Naval Transportation Jobs: Railroads, Locomotives and Ships
Section crew at during railroad maintenance on the track, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad  Bensenville, Ill., 1943
John Paulinski, car inspector, blue flagging a train for inspection, at Corwith yard, Santa Fe RR trip, Chicago, Ill., 1943
Yardmaster in railroad yards, Amarillo Texas, 1943
Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn., 1942
Spreading asbestos mixture on boiler of a locomotive at the C & NW RR 40th Street locomotive shops, 1942
A young worker at the C & NW RR 40th Street shops, Chicago, Ill., 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; Chicago, Ill., 1942
Infantry
Coast Guardsman standing watch over 78-foot torpedo boat. Continual watch is kept.
Higgins Industries, Inc., New Orleans, La., 1942
A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle like an old timer, Fort Knox, Ky. He likes the piece for its fine firing qualities and its rugged, dependable mechanism. Infantryman with halftrack, 1942
Halftrack infantryman with Garand rifle, Ft. Knox, Ky., 1942
Tank commander, Ft. Knox, Ky., 1942
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Tank crew standing in front of an M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Ky., 1942
Now that we're living in a time where you need a degree in order to shuffle papers, it is pretty amazing to know that in the 1940s only 24.5% had a high school diploma. Many of the woman that became skilled technicians(positions and work that could help make or break the U.S.) were former housewives. I do value education, however these photos show that anyone can make a valuable contribution to society and I disagree with haphazardly blocking less educated people from opportunities. People with the right attitude, willingness to work and strong work ethic can prove that they are more than capable once given the chance. Just by putting people to work (yes even the unskilled because there is something called....training) America was able to rise out of the Great Depression and experience prosperity.

Is there a photo that you like the most?

Read More! Exploring Child Labor: Analysis of William Blake's "Chimney Sweeper"

10 comments:

The Lazy Foodie said...

What great photos! Thank you for sharing these.

D. Heath said...

D. Heath

@ The Lazy Foodie

I'm glad you love them! I keep coming back to this post staring at them, lol.

Arlee Bird said...

They did an amazing job of bringing those photos up to modern standards. My favorite is the "backstage at the girlie show". When I was about 4 years old my parents took a few week juggling gig on the renown girlie show of Gooding's Amusements. They played large fairs throughout the South. I can recall my sister and I spending our time backstage during the performances. Years later when I was a teenager, in 1966, and now a part of the juggling act, my family played on the same girlie show in Knoxville and Nashville, TN. It was a grueling schedule--sometimes up to 17 shows per day--but it was a lot of fun. Great memories. Lee
Tossing it Out

D. Heath said...

@ Arlee Bird It is amazing what they've done with the photos!! That's so cool that you were there to witness and be a part of something so fun. I tried to choose a favorite...but I really can't. I do like the last photo a lot though.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I believe your internet site may be acquiring browser compatibility troubles. When I search at your internet site in Safari, it appears good but when opening in Web Explorer, it's got some overlapping. I just needed to provide you with a speedy heads up! Other then that, great web site!

D. Heath said...

Thank you for the heads up! I guess the screens at my college must be huge because it looks fine to me on IE. I'll try to look at it on a smaller screen.

AnnemarieCross said...

What amazing photos - each of them provoke a deep story that I cannot choose a favorite.

Isn't it amazing (and wonderful) that we have the technologies to bring old photos back to life.

Thanks for sharing.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey said...

What great photos--they reminded me of Margaret Bourke-White's photo essays!

Fabrizio Faraco said...

Dianne great article and lovely photos. The thing that struck me most is: during those years less than 25% of population get a diploma. What can we do now that almost everybody in the young generation has one? Potential are enormous!

Dianne said...

@Annemariecross
I agree, I'm glad that we can use technology to learn a bit more about history.

@ Sandra
I need to check her out. I definitely plan on doing more photo narratives in the future.

@ Fabrizio
Thank you for commenting on the article! That's basically the premise, if people could save America by working then and they weren't even educated, the the people of today (if given the chance could do so much)