Farm Relief

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Farm Relief

Throughout U.S. history farming has been an important way of life for American families and essential for the nation's economic health. During the first two decades of the twentieth century farmers experienced economic growth and prosperity. The period of 1909 through 1914 is often referred to as the golden age of agriculture. By then, the agricultural character of the various regions of the United States had become well established: Dairy and poultry farms dominated in the Northeast, tobacco and cotton farms in the South, corn and hog production in the Midwest, wheat farms in the Great Plains, open-range livestock grazing in the western states, and vegetables, cotton, and orchards in California.

When World War I (1914–18) disrupted food production in Europe, U.S. farmers supplied Europeans with food. However, at the conclusion of World War I, the resumption of European food production brought a rapid decline in demand for U.S. farm products. The decline led to large surpluses (more supply than was needed) and falling prices in the United States, but farmers continued to produce at their World War I levels to try to cover their operating expenses. Although most parts of the U.S. economy prospered during the 1920s, the decade proved to be a harsh, lean time for farmers. Farmers became angry and frustrated by the lack of action by President Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933; served 1923–29), who refused to address their problems. When Herbert Hoover (1874–1964; served 1929–33) took office in 1929, the economy appeared to be healthy except in agriculture. And times would only get harder for farmers: In October 1929 the New York Stock Exchange crashed, signaling the start of the Great Depression. The Great Depression, which lasted until 1941, was the worst economic crisis in U.S. history.

In an effort to help U.S. farmers and manufacturers, Congress passed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act in 1930. A tariff is a tax charged on imported products. The U.S. tariff was intended to make foreign goods cost more than homegrown and American-made products; that way, people in the United States would be more likely to buy the American goods, thus sustaining U.S. farmers and manufacturers. Unfortunately the act caused other nations to also enact protective tariffs. These tariffs soon decreased world trade by 40 percent. Export of U.S. farming products had supplied 25 percent of all U.S. farm income, but these exports halted when other countries adopted their own tariffs. As a result, farming income, which supported between 25 and 30 percent of Americans, was further devastated.

The U.S. economy continued to spiral downward between late 1929 and 1932. The U.S. banking system was in turmoil as more and more banks failed; manufacturing dramatically decreased; and with at least 25 percent of the workforce unemployed, many Americans were losing their land and homes. By 1932 farmers were the hardest hit by the economic disaster. Their income was one-third of what it had been in 1929, and it had been dropping steadily throughout the 1920s. Between 1929 and 1932 approximately four hundred thousand farms were lost through foreclosure. (Foreclosure happens when an individual falls behind on property loan payments; it means that the bank that made the loan takes the property and sells it to recover the loaned money.) Farmers were dismayed by the federal government's lack of action.

Revolt: "farmers' holidays"

President Hoover, like Coolidge before him, firmly believed that government should not take an active role in relief or in economic reform. Angered by Hoover's failure to help in raising farm prices, desperate farmers protested: They burned crops, dumped milk on highways rather than sell it at a loss, and organized strikes, refusing to take their produce to market for weeks. They hoped these "farmers' holidays" would reduce the nation's supply of farm produce and raise prices. Occasionally violence erupted as farmers blocked highways in Nebraska and Iowa to prevent food from reaching markets.

New Deal for farmers

With the entire U.S. economy worsening, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) ran as the Democratic presidential candidate in the November 1932 election. Promising a "new deal" for Americans, Roosevelt easily defeated the unpopular Hoover. New Deal legislation was designed to bring relief and then recovery on many economic fronts, but President Roosevelt (served 1933–45) gave special priority to federal government assistance for farmers.

Roosevelt named agricultural expert Henry Wallace (1888–1965) of Iowa as secretary of agriculture; Roosevelt chose Rexford Tugwell (1891–1979), a close adviser, as assistant secretary of agriculture. Everyone recognized that for agricultural assistance to gain acceptance, the programs would have to be operated locally rather than by federal officials in Washington, D.C. On March 16, 1933, only twelve days after Roosevelt's inauguration, Wallace gathered farm leaders from around the country in Washington to draft a revolutionary farm bill. This group described its goal as "agricultural adjustment" of farmers' income: how to decrease farm production but still allow farmers enough income to survive and regroup.

Agricultural Adjustment Act

On May 12, 1933, Roosevelt signed the Agricultural Adjustment Act into law. The act established the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The AAA was Roosevelt's first New Deal economic recovery program directed toward farmers. At their March meeting the farm leaders had made reduction of farm production their main focus, and the AAA reflected this focus: The AAA would pay farmers to limit their crop production. Reducing crops was the only way to get crop prices to rise. The crops in greatest surplus were wheat, cotton, corn, and hogs. Farmers who agreed to limit crop production according to the AAA's plan would receive government payments. The production control program was completely voluntary, but with the poor economic condition of farms, many farmers felt they had no choice but to participate. AAA checks became the chief source of income for some farmers. The income helped them avoid losing their farms to the bank; it also allowed them to buy goods, which helped other industries. To raise the funds needed to pay farmers for reducing production, a tax was placed on processing companies—flour mills, textile mills, and meat packing-houses. The AAA gave county agents from state agricultural extension services and local farmer committees authority to oversee the program at the local level.

Not unexpectedly, some problems in reducing crop surplus immediately arose. The Agricultural Adjustment Act did not pass until May 1933, so many crops had already been planted. The AAA offered to pay farmers to plow under more than ten million acres of cotton. To those farmers the AAA paid out $112 million dollars in the summer of 1933. Hogs were also in great surplus that summer. Six million hogs were slaughtered and discarded in September 1933.

Many criticized the AAA's policy of destruction, because Americans were going hungry. In response to the outcry, Secretary of Agriculture Wallace arranged for the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, formed in October 1933, to purchase over a hundred million pounds of baby pork (the meat of hogs) and distribute it to people enrolled in relief programs.

Reducing farm debt

Another key focus for farm relief was farm debt reduction. President Roosevelt created the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) to make loans more available to farmers. Congress provided funding for the agency by passing the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act in May 1933 and the Farm Credit Act in June. The Farm Credit Act also created a system of banking institutions for farmers. The FCA replaced the Federal Farm Board, an agency established by former president Hoover, which had made 7,800 loans to farmers totaling $28 million. In the FCA's first twelve-month period, it approved 541,000 loans for $1.4 billion. The FCA program gave hundreds of thousands of families the means to keep their farms.

On January 31, 1934, Congress passed the Farm Mortgage Refinancing Act, which provided money to refinance farm home loans. (Refinance means to set up new, easier repayment terms.) In June 1934 Congress passed the Frazier-Lemke Farm Bankruptcy Act, which limited the ability of banks to take away the farms of those experiencing severe financial hardships.

The Dust Bowl

By the summer of 1931 a drought (an extended period of little or no rainfall) began to take a toll on the Great Plains region of the United States. The drought would soon solve wheat overproduction problems in the region. However, the extended drought became the worst in U.S. history, not ending until 1939.

The drought prevented winter wheat crops (planted in the fall of 1931) from growing enough to protect the soil from yearly windstorms that came from the north. By late January 1932 dust storms began to blow over the southern Great Plains. Winds of sixty miles per hour swept across the Texas Panhandle, and black dust clouds reached ten thousand feet into the air. And the storms steadily worsened. The hardest-hit areas were western Kansas, eastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico, and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles. Collectively, these areas were known as the Dust Bowl. Dust storms had always occurred in these areas, but in the 1930s they were far more severe. In the preceding twenty years farmers had removed millions of acres of natural grass sod to plant wheat, and hundreds of thousands of cattle had been driven north from Texas to Kansas year after year. Native grasses had slowly been destroyed. When the drought arrived in 1931 and wheat failed to grow, the soils were left exposed to the strong winds that blew over the land. Millions of tons of blinding black dirt would boil up into massive clouds and sweep across the plains. The storms brought periods of total darkness during daylight hours and left behind long half-light periods as particles of dust stayed suspended in the air.

The thick clouds of dust would force businesses and schools to close as residents sought shelter. People got dust in their eyes and noses and grit between their teeth. Dust piled up like snow against houses and fences. People would hang wet sheets in windows and doorways to catch the dust. Housecleaning after a storm involved removing buckets of dirt. Baking in the oven was preferable to cooking on the stovetop, because the oven offered better protection from dust. Meals were eaten immediately after preparation; otherwise dust would cover them. The storms were especially hard on farm animals. Range cattle died in the fields with two inches of dirt lining their stomachs. Chickens were smothered in henhouses.

By the mid-1930s thousands of families had lost crops and livestock, and they began to leave the region. Most had lost their farms to foreclosure. They would pack a car with all their belongings and simply drive away. This migration out of the Dust Bowl was the largest migration in U.S. history. Many headed to the agricultural fields of California, Oregon, and Washington.

New Deal for drought victims

For those who remained on their land within the Dust Bowl, federal government relief often was their only means of survival. In addition to various debt relief programs, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) created the Emergency Cattle Purchase Program in May 1934. The program purchased and destroyed thousands of starving cattle. With the Drought Relief Service coordinating relief activities, the meat from cattle that still had food value was given to the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation for distribution to needy families.

Despite relief efforts, by the mid-1930s thousands of small farmers had lost their farms. People complained that the programs of the AAA favored large landowners and large-scale corporate farming over small family farms. Responding to the small farmers' needs, President Roosevelt signed the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act in April 1935; the act included $525 million for drought relief. On April 30, Roosevelt signed an executive order establishing the Resettlement Administration (RA) to assist small farmers who did not own land but who rented land from large landowners. This group of small farmers included tenant farmers, who used their own tools; sharecroppers, whose tools were provided by the landowners; and migrant workers, who followed the seasonal crop harvest and harvested for their living. Tenant farmers and sharecroppers both had to give part of their harvest to the landowner. The goal of the RA was to reset-tle these poverty-stricken farmers, moving them from poor land to more-productive land that they might eventually buy. The majority of farm families eligible for resettlement lived in the Dust Bowl region or in the Southeast.

Black Sunday

The worst of all the dust storms descended on Kansas on April 14, 1935. Severe storms had been blowing for weeks, destroying millions of acres of wheat in Kansas and Nebraska. But the sun had broken out in Kansas on Sunday, April 14, and people ventured out for church and other activities. Then with sudden fury a black cloud appeared on the horizon. It descended with terrifying energy—sixty- to seventy-mile-per-hour winds—and total blackness. Though few people died from this or other such dust storms, many suffered serious lung ailments, commonly called dust pneumonia. This storm, and other major dust storms, also caused substantial economic hardship for farmers and rural communities due to the major loss of topsoil and damaged houses and farm property. The April 14 storm literally buried farm equipment and partially covered houses in dust dunes created within hours. The day became known as "Black Sunday."

There were many critics of the RA, including some within the Roosevelt administration. They thought efforts to preserve the small family farm were misguided. They believed the only real future for U.S. agriculture was in large commercial farms that could make use of new mechanized farm machines designed for mass production. Critics of the RA feared that establishing areas of small farms would only create isolated pockets of lasting poverty.

Given these concerns, in July 1937 Congress passed the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenancy Act, which made low-interest loans available to tenant farmers and small landowners so they could purchase equipment and/or expand their own land. A few months later President Roosevelt created the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The RA and all its departments were absorbed by the FSA. Although it did not abandon the resettlement program, the FSA also loaned money to families for necessities (such as food, clothing, seed, feed, and fertilizer) to sustain them where they were.


By the mid-1930s hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Dust Bowl—western Kansas, eastern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles—traveled west in search of jobs in the agricultural fields of California. Others came from sharecrop-ping farms in the Southeast. They piled all their belongings in an old car, loaded up the family, and headed west. A few walked, pulling their belongings in a cart behind them. Rarely did they find better conditions in the West. Most became migrant workers living in severe poverty and unwanted by local residents. Californians called the migrants "Okies" (short for "Oklahomans"), regardless of what state they were actually from. The Resettlement Administration built several camps for the migrants in an attempt to improve sanitation and protect them from hostile local residents.

Conserving the soil

The dust storms were a social and economic disaster for families in the Dust Bowl; they were also an environmental disaster. Hard, bare ground was left after valuable topsoil blew away. At the time, little was known about how to prevent wind erosion. As early as 1930, Congress had authorized the Department of Agriculture to establish a series of soil erosion experiment stations and set up model plots of land. In 1933, as the dust storms roared across the Great Plains, the Soil Erosion Service (SES) was created under the Department of the Interior to operate the stations and promote farmer cooperation. Hugh Hammond Bennett, soil scientist and the "father of soil conservation," was named to head the SES. The SES soil scientists worked with farmers to encourage new farming practices that conserved the soil. For example, rather than burning the last stubble of wheat after harvest or allowing livestock to graze on it, farmers left the stubble in the ground; this helped keep soil in place. In addition, trees were planted in rows to provide windbreaks.

On April 27, 1935, Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation Act, which shifted the SES to the Department of Agriculture, where it was renamed the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). The SCS greatly expanded the SES program and established an extensive conservation (the planned management of natural resources, such as soil and forests) program. The latest soil conservation techniques, such as contour plowing (plowing across a hill rather than up and down), were demonstrated to farmers. To encourage farmers to practice the new soil conservation techniques, the SCS offered to pay farmers about a dollar an acre for areas where they applied the new techniques.

On February 27, 1937, Roosevelt introduced a program encouraging states to pass their own conservation laws. Farmers could then establish their own local conservation districts. These districts allowed expansion of the conservation programs beyond the federally operated demonstration areas. The SCS programs and local programs of conservation began to take effect: By 1938 it was estimated that 65 percent less soil was blowing across the plains, despite the continuing drought.

West of the Dust Bowl other conservation concerns prompted more New Deal legislation. Ranchers had grazed livestock on open public rangeland since the mid-nineteenth century without any regulations. (Public land consists of millions of acres of western lands never settled because of lack of water, remoteness, or poor desert soils.) Ranchers allowed cattle and sheep to overgraze the land, and this destroyed the natural grasses of the rangelands. In 1934 Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act to regulate grazing on public land. Much tighter control of public land became the policy of the federal government from that time on. The work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) proved invaluable to both the SCS and to rangeland improvement. The CCC built fences, planted trees as windbreaks, and made other range improvements (see Riding the Rails chapter).

Supreme Court strikes down the Agricultural Adjustment Act

In January 1936 the U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow to New Deal agricultural programs by ruling the Agricultural Adjustment Act unconstitutional in United States v. Butler. The Court ruled against food processing companies being taxed to support the Agricultural Adjustment Administration's programs. Congress responded immediately with passage of the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act. Under the new act farmers were paid for soil conservation and for planting crops that deplete the soil the least. This act proved somewhat ineffective because not enough farmers voluntarily followed its guidelines. Therefore, in 1938 Congress passed a new Agricultural Adjustment Act, which made the features of the Allotment Act permanent and helped regulate farm production.

Benefits of farm relief

Despite the Supreme Court ruling in 1936, Roosevelt considered farm relief and recovery measures some of the most successful New Deal programs. Producing positive results quickly, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and other farm programs were among the strongest of New Deal programs. Although no strong recovery resulted, the agricultural decline that had begun in 1920 was halted. Farm income increased approximately 50 percent between 1932 and 1936. Prices of farm products rose 67 percent. Farm debt decreased by a billion dollars. The federal government replaced banks and insurance companies as the key holder of farm mortgage debt.

Farm Security Administration photographs: A powerful documentary tool

Photographs are some of the best records of the impact of the Great Depression. During the 1930s documentary photography reached a high point in the United States. (Documentary photography produces photographs that capture a subject so well that the pictures tell a story about an individual, a situation, a structure, or a landscape.) The documentary photographs of the living and working conditions Americans endured during the Depression became part of the historical record of the United States.

In the 1930s a handful of photographers employed by the Resettlement Administration (RA), later the Farm Security Administration (FSA), produced tens of thousands of extraordinary images of American life. The RA/FSA photographers turned their cameras to poor sharecroppers and tenant farmers, to black American cotton pickers, coal miners in Appalachia, migrant families harvesting crops in California, and flood victims along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Taken in black and white, the simple, stark, and powerful photos appeared in newspapers, magazines, and special exhibits. The photos helped the American public understand the needs of those in poverty and make sense out of social welfare programs created under Roosevelt's administration. The photographs, commonly known as the FSA photographs, span a six-year period, from 1935 to 1941. For most Americans at the start of the twenty-first century, images of America in the 1930s are based on the FSA photographs.

Historical Section of the Resettlement Administration

The collection of FSA photographs got its start when Roosevelt appointed Rexford Guy Tugwell (1891–1979) to lead the Resettlement Administration (RA). Tugwell knew that in order to carry out the agency's duties he would have to rally public support. He had published a book in 1925, American Economic Life and the Means of Its Improvement, in which he used many photographs to dramatize American life; he understood the power of photographs. So Tugwell established the Historical Section in the RA's Division of Information and charged it with photographing rural poverty and the condition of the land itself. Tugwell named Roy E. Stryker to administer the Historical Section.

Roy E. Stryker

Roy Stryker (1893–1975) had done the photographic research for Tugwell's book and had become familiar with the work of photographers Jacob Riis (1849–1914) and Lewis Hine (1874–1940), both of whom had an interest in social reform. Although not a photographer himself, Stryker understood how effectively documentary photography could illustrate the conditions that confronted the RA. Stryker also had an encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. geography and the economic factors that affected each area. With a missionary-like eagerness, Stryker set out to make the rest of the nation understand the problems of rural citizens. Stryker's first duty at the Historical Section was to gather a staff of photographers. He looked for idealism and talent rather than photographers with established reputations. The pictures taken by these photographers would tell the story of the rural poor to millions of Americans.

Before Stryker would send photographers into the field, he required them to carefully research their assigned areas. Stryker would then follow up with his own lessons on each area; he loved to teach and did so with great enthusiasm. Then Stryker would outline an assignment using "shooting scripts." The scripts were general notes about what types of pictures were needed, such as where the people met, what a person saw outside his or her kitchen window, what wall decorations were in homes, and the condition of the land around homes. Finally the energetic, persuasive Stryker would review the entire scope of the assignment immediately before a photographer's departure. Both Stryker and his photographers enjoyed these pep talks.

Although Stryker specified what pictures he needed from an area, he also allowed his photographers the freedom to shoot anything of interest that would help tell the story of a region. John Collier, one of Stryker's photographers, once said that his assignment was to photograph the smell of apple pie and burning leaves in autumn in New England. With their pictures the FSA photographers interpreted the lives of migrants, the unemployed, the displaced, and the rural poor. The photographs were not sensational; they focused on real people and situations. They made it easier for the American public to understand the upheavals resulting from economic and weather-related disasters.

The FSA photographers

Stryker assembled a remarkable pool of photographers for his Historical Section. In July 1935 Stryker hired Arthur Rothstein, a former student of his at Columbia University, and Dorothea Lange (1895–1965), who was eventually the best known of the RA/FSA photographers. Two of Rothstein's most famous pictures are "Dust Storm, Cimarron County [Oklahoma], 1936," depicting a father and his sons striding to shelter during a dust storm, and "The Skull, 1936," photographed in Pennington County in the South Dakota Badlands. "The Skull," a picture of a cow's skull on parched land, hinted that the desert would soon claim the land that ranchers had overgrazed with livestock. Within weeks of the publication of both pictures, a congressional committee went to the Badlands of South Dakota to investigate.

Dorothea Lange was working on the West Coast, photographing the condition of migrant workers in California, when Stryker hired her on the strength of her photos alone. The two did not meet until nine months later. Lange's photographs are full of compassion. Her most famous picture is "Migrant Mother." Lange encountered the portrayed woman and the woman's three daughters at a pea pickers' migrant camp in California's Nipomo Valley. The San Francisco News ran a story accompanied by two of Lange's photos from the camp on March 10, 1936. Relief authorities immediately sent supplies and food to the camp.

A talented painter, Ben Shahn (1898–1969), also came to Stryker's attention in mid-1935. Besides his painting skill, Shahn possessed the ability to take photographs that screamed for social justice. Many of Shahn's photographs went into the Historical Section files even though he was only on Stryker's payroll during the summer of 1938.

Walker Evans (1903–1975), the true photographic artist of the group, came to the Historical Section in October 1935. Evans had a nonconformist artistic spirit that often conflicted with Stryker's organized approach to photographic assignments. Evans often disappeared for months on assignment. Such absences riled Stryker, who liked his photographers to keep in touch when they were in the field. Nevertheless, when Evans resurfaced, he did so with flawless, amazing photographs that kept Stryker in awe of his talent. In 1936 Evans took a leave of absence from the Historical Section to work with author James Agee (1909–1955) in Hale County, Alabama. Describing the life of rural poverty there, Evans's photographs and Agee's words appeared in 1941 in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, an American classic. In mid-1937 Evans and Stryker parted ways permanently. Along with Shahn, Evans was one of the most artistically influential photographers of Stryker's group.

Carl Mydans also came to Stryker in 1935. He contributed photos of northeastern cities before taking a long assignment in the South. Mydans stayed with the Historical Section less than a year before moving to the new photo magazine Life in October 1936. Taking his place was Russell Lee. Lee, trained as a painter, would become a core photographer of the group and stay with Stryker until 1942. Dedicated to publicizing the struggle of Americans affected in one way or another by the Depression, he headed to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Later he would do some of his best-known work in Pie Town, New Mexico.

John Vachon, an unemployed graduate student in Washington, D.C., was thrilled to be hired by Stryker in 1936 as an "assistant messenger." In his later years Vachon laughed at his eagerness to take that humble title, but his college major of Elizabethan poetry had ill prepared him for a job during the Depression; so he was grateful for any work. Vachon advanced to junior file clerk and then, he noted, junior file clerk "with a camera." Vachon's interest and skill in photography steadily grew, and Stryker saw that Vachon had a future in the field. By 1940 Vachon was an official junior photographer with, as Dorothea Lange put it, the ability to find subjects whose desperation made viewers uncomfortable.

The last three photographers to join the Historical Section were Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, and John Collier. Wolcott produced some of the finest photography of children in the Historical Section file. Delano was skilled in presenting the living conditions of miners but also did in-depth work on migrant worker camps on the East Coast. Stryker sent him on assignment in 1941 to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. (Delano ended up staying in Puerto Rico and made it his permanent home.) Collier contributed a wide range of photos, from Portuguese fishermen in Rhode Island to Mexican Americans in New Mexico.

Life and Look Magazines

The first important American photo magazines were Life and Look. Henry Luce (1898–1967), founder of Time magazine, decided that pictures as well as print could tell an interesting story. He printed the first issue of Life in 1936, and it was an instant success. Americans lined up to buy issues. Look was founded in 1938 by Gardner Cowles to compete with Life. Both photo magazines were interested in finding drama in everyday life and in covering big events. Coverage included construction of the Grand Coulee and Bonneville Dams in Washington and Oregon, projects of the Tennessee Valley Authority; poverty in the South; the Dust Bowl; and military buildups in Europe leading up to World War II (1939–45).

One of Life's first staff photographers was Margaret Bourke-White (1906–1971). She created some of the first photographic essays ever attempted. For Life's first issue she completed a photographic story on Montana boomtowns. Bourke-White worked with author Erskine Caldwell (1903–1987) to produce a book about the severe conditions in the rural South during the Depression. The book, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), received a great deal of attention in Life.

FSA/OWI photographs online

By December 1941 the FSA's budget was slashed as the United States entered World War II (1939–45). The Historical Section was transferred to the Office of War Information (OWI). Stryker still headed the Historical Section, and a few of the FSA photographers followed him: Russell Lee, John Vachon, and John Collier. Their mission switched to focusing on America's war preparation, showing America's best can-do side. Aircraft factories and women in the labor force were important subjects for the camera lenses. In 1943 Stryker prepared to leave the OWI to take a photography job at Standard Oil of New Jersey. Paul Vanderbilt, a curator of collections, carefully organized and boxed the FSA/OWI prints and negatives, but their ultimate destination was unknown. Poet Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982), an old friend of Stryker and at that time serving as librarian of Congress, gave them a permanent home at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The boxes contained 277,000 negatives and 77,000 prints—the combined work of the RA, FSA, and OWI—and these are collectively known as the FSA/OWI collection. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the entire remarkable collection can be viewed online at (the Library of Congress's Internet site for the American Memory program).

For More Information

Farm relief


agee, james, and walker evans. let us now praise famous men: three tenant families. reprint. boston, ma: houghton mifflin, 2000.

hamilton, david e. from new day to new deal: american farm policy from hoover to roosevelt, 1928–1933. chapel hill, nc: university of north carolina press, 1991.

hurt, douglas. american agriculture: a brief history. ames, ia: iowa state university press, 1994.

perkins, van l. crisis in agriculture: the agricultural adjustment administration and the new deal, 1933. berkeley, ca: university of california press, 1969.

Web Sites

u.s. bureau of land management. (accessed on august 12, 2002).

u.s. department of agriculture. (accessed on august 12, 2002).

Dust Bowl


booth, david. the dust bowl. toronto, ontario, canada: kids can press, 1997.

davidson, james a. patches on my britches: memories of growing up in the dust bowl. bloomington, in: 1st books library, 1998.

ganzel, bill. dust bowl descent. lincoln, ne: university of nebraska press, 1984.

meltzer, milton. driven from the land: the story of the dust bowl. new york, ny: benchmark books, 2000.

rutland, robert a. a boyhood in the dust bowl, 1926–1934. niwot, co: university press of colorado, 1997.

shindo, charles j. dust bowl migrants in the american imagination. lawrence, ks: university press of kansas, 1997.

stanley, jerry. children of the dust bowl: the true story of the school at weedpatch. new york, ny: crown publishing, 1992.

worster, donald. dust bowl: the southern plains in the 1930s. new york, ny: oxford university press, 1979.

Web Sites

national association of conservation districts (nacd). (accessed on august 12, 2002).

national resources conservation service (nrcs). (accessed on august 12, 2002).

FSA photographers


garver, thomas h. just before the war: urban america from 1935 to 1941 as seen by photographers of the farm security administration. new york, ny: october house, 1968.

hurley, f. jack. portrait of a decade: roy stryker and the development of documentary photography in the thirties. baton rouge, la: louisiana state university press, 1966.

o'neal, hank. a vision shared: a classic portrait of america and its people, 1935–1943. new york, ny: st. martin's press, 1976.

reid, robert l., and larry a. viskochil, eds. chicago and downstate: illinois as seen by the farm security administration photographers, 1936–1943. urbana, il: university of illinois press, 1989.

rothstein, arthur. the depression years. new york, ny: dover publications, 1978.

stryker, roy e., and nancy wood. in this proud land: america 1935–1943 as seen in the fsa photographs. greenwich, ct: new york graphic society, 1973.

thompson, kathleen, and hilary macaustin, eds. children of the depression. bloomington, in: indiana university press, 2001.

Web Sites

"america from the great depression to world war ii: photographs from the fsa-owi, 1935–1945." american memory (library of congress). (accessed on august 12, 2002).

franklin delano roosevelt library. (accessed august 12, 2002).

life magazine. (accessed august 12, 2002).