Monday, January 12, 2015

Birmingham Photos of the Day (25): "World's Highest Standard of Living"

The two photographs below were taken by Arthur Rothstein in February 1937 during his swing through Alabama for the Farm Security Administration. During the Great Depression the FSA sent a number of male and female photographers around the country to document conditions especially--but not exclusively--in rural areas. I've discussed his Birmingham photo of a barber shop in a previous blog post and his photos of area migrant workers in another. I'll be posting more of his work in a future item about FSA photographers in Alabama.

In trips in September 1935, February 1937 and June 1942, Rothstein took more than 400 photographs in the state, ranging from Jackson County to Mobile. About half that number were taken in June 1942 to document the war effort for the Office of War Information. A number of his Birmingham photographs taken on the 1937 visit relate to coal mining.

I have yet to identify the buildings seen in these two photos, especially the second one. The sign company is identified as the General Outdoor Advertising [Advertisement?] Company and may be the one listed here. However, that company filed as a "foreign corporation" [meaning out of state] in Alabama in 1963; the filing has since been "withdrawn". Yet a token celebrating the silver anniversary of this same Chicago company in 1950 can be seen here. Since that company started in 1925, perhaps it is indeed the one identified in these photographs.

More than 170,000 photographs taken by FSA and OWI photographers have been made available by Yale University. They are an incredible resource.

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