Bust to Boom: Documentary Photographs of Kansas,1936-1949

Overview

"I was supposed to be taking pictures to show that this was a great country and I was finding out it really was. . . . I didn't know it at the time, but I was having a last look at America as it used to be."—John Vachon

Kansans of the 1930s and 1940s lived through more sweeping changes than any other generation past or present. Destructive forces of nature, an economy gone awry, and a devastating—and ironically, economically renewing—war left the world irrevocably altered. In ...

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Overview

"I was supposed to be taking pictures to show that this was a great country and I was finding out it really was. . . . I didn't know it at the time, but I was having a last look at America as it used to be."—John Vachon

Kansans of the 1930s and 1940s lived through more sweeping changes than any other generation past or present. Destructive forces of nature, an economy gone awry, and a devastating—and ironically, economically renewing—war left the world irrevocably altered. In this captivating collection, some of America's best-known documentary photographers provide a valuable glimpse into that tumultuous time.

Constance Schulz has brought together a diverse array of photographs from three extensive documentary projects: the Farm Security Administration, the Office of War Information, and Standard Oil of New Jersey. The result is a unique visual record of American life by photographers Arthur Rothstein, John Vachon, Russell Lee, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, Edwin and Louise Rosskam, and Charles Rotkin. Collectively, their work has immortalized the faces and emotions of FSA-aided farmers and the harsh lives of coal miners, dust-bowl debris and tumbleweeds, a failed bank and a thriving stockyard, locomotives and Mexican-American railroad workers, oil derricks, wheat country, black cavalry troops, and 4-H Club fairs.

In his enlightening introduction, environmental historian Donald Worster provides historical context for the images. Examining state, national, and international events from 1930 to 1950, he explores the agricultural, business, social, political, and environmental climates as well as the composition of the state's population and its inevitable shift away from rural life toward urbanization and industrialization. Schulz also supplies fundamental information on the photographers and the photographic projects.

Originally created as a means to promote government and business programs, the FSA, OWI, and Standard Oil photographs—most never before published—are an excellent source for individuals and communities searching for a visual record of their local heritage during two of the most crucial decades in American history.

This 8" x 9-1/2" book contains 94 photographs.

Author Biography: Constance B. Schulz is associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. She is editor of South Carolina Album, 1936-1948: Documentary Photography in the Palmetto State and image compiler and author of The American History Videodisc.

Donald Worster is professor of history at the University of Kansas. His books include The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History, Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West, Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, and The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The illustrations in Shades of L.A. come from the archives of a project of the same name in the Los Angeles Public Library. Cole, curator of the library's photography collection, is project director; Kobayashi is the project historian and consultant. The subjects of these ordinary snapshots are African Americans, urban American Indians, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Pacific Islands immigrants who ended up in Los Angeles. The photographers were family members or friends, anonymous recorders of seemingly ordinary moments in these lives. The cultural concessions and cross-pollinations are apparent in nearly every image: the Nagano family with a Christmas tree (1930); the first television and radio simulcast in Spanish of the Rose Parade (1952); a Chinese tennis club dinner dance (1934); Japanese Americans participating in a golf tournament in a Gila, Arizona, internment camp (1944). A "Timeline of L.A. Ethnic History" from the 1880s through the 1960s traces the development of and significant dates for each ethnic group in L.A. The pictures selected are very fine, and reproduction quality is good. Boom to Bust features well-known documentary photographers who contributed memorable images of Kansas to the files of the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information between 1936 and 1949 or worked for Kansas native Roy Stryker documenting the Standard Oil Company. The photos are drawn from over 800 Kansas images in collections at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and the Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville. Accompanying essays trace the development of Kansas and touch on the stories of some of the subjects of the photographs here: farmers and families, coal and zinc miners, children, failed banks, deserted towns, labor demonstrations. Each photographer's work is presented as a portfolio, allowing us to see the distinctive documentary styles that emerged during these projects. The photographs are eloquent and moving. Both books are recommended for local history and documentary photography collections.Kathleen Collins, New York Transit Museum Archives, Brooklyn
Booknews
Assembles photographs from the Farm Security Administration, the Office of War Information, and Standard Oil of New Jersey to illuminate the decades of depression, war, and post-war growth in the midwest state. As might be expected, the images pivot around farmers, soldiers, and railroad workers. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700607990
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.32 (w) x 9.73 (h) x 0.66 (d)

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