When you think about the Great Depression — if you think about it at all — you probably recall images that are black and white. Dirty and dry. Images that are from a time entirely separate from and unrelated to today. But a newly released collection of color photos from the Great Depression may help you see that era in a different light.
The Great Depression, officially documented as 1929-1939, was a brutal era for many Americans. Prior to this time, Americans had enjoyed a relatively lucrative post-World War I period of economic growth and stability. So when the stock market crashed in October 1929, wiping out Wall Street and devastating its investors, it sent a panic through the nation that resulted in closed banks, closed factories and record-high unemployment.
Most of the photos we've seen from that time are colorless, as we suspect life itself was for those who lived it.
This black-and-white image of the Great Depression offers a grim view of a bleak time in American history. (Photo: Social Security.gov)
But there is a rare collection of color photographs that document the era. These images, taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information and recently released by the Library of Congress, capture the hardship of the Great Depression. But their color sheds a new light on the bleak period, closing the gap of the last seven decades and reminding us that history is never as far away as it seems.
Take a look:
Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders in Pie Town, New Mexico, 1940. (Photo: Library of Congress)
The garden and dugout home of the Whinery family in Pie Town, New Mexico, September 1940 (Photo: Library of Congress)
Two boys fishing in Schriever, Louisiana, in summer 1940, during the Great Depression. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Family eating barbecue at the New Mexico Fair in Pie Town, New Mexico, 1940. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Distributing surplus commodities in St. Johns, Arizona, in October 1940. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Young boys harvest potatoes in Aroostook County, Maine, in October 1940. Schools did not open until the potatoes were harvested. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Children at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, Vermont, in 1941. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Two ladies serve dessert after the barbecue dinner at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Part of the South Water Street freight depot of the Illinois Central Railroad in Chicago in May 1943. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Delta County Fair, Colorado, 1940 (Photo: Library of Congress)
Farm trucks line up outside of a starch factory in Aroostook County, Maine, in 1940. They are waiting to be weighed and graded. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Jim Norris, homesteader, Pie Town, New Mexico, in late 1940. (Photo: Library of Congress)
Color photos focus on faces of Great Depression
Rare photographs show the historically bleak Great Depression in vivid color.