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Rare color photos of the last years of The Great Depression!

Ian Smith

We tend to perceive The Great Depression in  a gray vision, which symbolically is correct, because this period, in fact, was the grayest in the economical History in the United States. The Great Depression was the longest and most dreadful economic downturn in American History (1929-1941).

The common view among economic historians is that the Great Depression ended with the advent of World War II. Many economists believe that government spending on the war caused or at least accelerated recovery from the Great Depression, though some consider that it did not play a very large role in the recovery. It did help in reducing unemployment.


The Library of Congress recently released an amazing collection of color photos (not colorized), showing the end of The Great Depression in 1940.

Sylvia Sweets Tea Room, corner of School and Main streets, Brockton, Mass


Railroad worker for 25 years


A woman’s work is never done Mrs Viola Sievers, one of the wipers at the roundhouse, giving a giant ‘H’ class locomotive a bath of live steam in Clinton, Iowa, April 1943


At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, 1941


At Vermont state fair, Rutland, 1941


Bayou Bourbeau plantation


Children with adult in the tenement district, Brockton, Massachusetts

[Children with adult in the tenement district, Brockton, Massachusetts]


Boy near Cincinnati, Ohio


Boys sitting on truck parked at the FSA labor camp, Robston, Texas


Brockton, Mass., Dec. 1940, second-hand plumbing store


Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Georgia


Co-op orange packing plant, Redlands, Calif. Workman is doing the preliminary sorting, picking out the discards. Santa Fe, 1943


Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Oklahoma [1939 or 1940]


The rearmament policies leading up to World War II helped stimulate the economies of Europe in 1937–39. By 1937, unemployment in Britain had fallen to 1.5 million. The mobilization of manpower following the outbreak of war in 1939 ended unemployment.

The U.S.’ entry into the war in 1941 finally eliminated the last effects from the Great Depression and brought the U.S. unemployment rate down below 10%.In the U.S., massive war spending doubled economic growth rates, either masking the effects of the Depression or essentially ending the Depression. Businessmen ignored the mounting national debt and heavy new taxes, redoubling their efforts for greater output to take advantage of generous government contracts.

Distributing surplus commodities, St. Johns, Arizona


Farm Penny  auction. Derby, Connecticut


Fertilizer wagon at an arid farm.


Garden adjacent to the dugout home of homesteader Jack Whinery, in Pie Town, New Mexico, 1940


Georgia, ca. 1940


Getting ready to serve the barbecue dinner at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair, 1940


Grand Grocery Company. Lincoln, Nebraska


Harvesting corn, Pie Town, New Mexico


Harvesting oats, southeastern Georgia


Homesteader and his children eating barbecue at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair

Homesteader 1940


Houston, Texas , 1943


Jack Whinery and his family, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico


Jim Norris and wife, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico, 1940

Joseph Klesken washing up after a day’s work at the rip tracks at Proviso yards of the C & NW RR., Chicago, Ill., 194


Robstown, Texas


Rodeo at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair

Saying grace before the barbecue dinner at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair, 1940


Schools did not open until the potatoes are harvested


Scrap and salvage depot, Butte, Montana


Sugar cane workers, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico


Trucks outside of a starch factory, Caribou, Aroostook County, Me


Tying a ribbon on a calf’s tail was one of the feature attractions at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair rodeo, 1940


Vermont state fair, Rutland, 1941


Ian Smith

Ian Smith is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News