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Friday fun: The 1930s and ’40s in color

We tend to imagine the Great Depression in black-and-white; it fits the mood, and the imaging technology of the time. But I didn’t realize until recently that that Library of Congress holds 1,600 gorgeous color photographs of the period, all on Flickr. You can access the collection by clicking the image above.

According to this story, while the first color image was actually shot in 1861, the method began taking off when Kodachrome was introduced in 1935.

These images were shot by the Farm Service Agency and Office of War Information, which documented World War II’s home front. They are mesmerizing, so be sure you have some time to luxuriate in the history.

[Update: MinnPics pulls out a Minnesota photo.]

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Pat McGee on 11/13/2009 - 10:24 am.

    Totally mesmerizing. I will be spending time with these over the weekend. Thanks.

  2. Submitted by Ken Wedding on 11/13/2009 - 10:40 am.

    Thank you, David.

    I’ve studied and taught history for 50 years and never realized until I looked at a few of these photos that all my mental images of the 1930s and ’40s (and my parents’ childhoods) were black and white.

  3. Submitted by Michael Ernst on 11/13/2009 - 03:08 pm.

    For even earlier color photos of pre-WWI Russia, go to http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/

    A direct link to the entire collection is http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/p?pp/prok:@field%28NUMBER+prok%29::SortBy=CALL

    It’s quite amazing.

  4. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 11/13/2009 - 03:20 pm.

    I downloaded hundreds of those photos and put them on my mom’s iMac. Everytime they have friends over she puts on that slideshow and everyone finds it to be mesmerizing.

    Then again, my mom and dad and their friends all lived through the Depression.

  5. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 11/16/2009 - 09:46 am.

    Those photos remind me of Jack Finney’s time travel novel Time and Again, in which the main character travels back to the 1880s and is momentarily shocked to realize that 19th century people lived “in color.”

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