The Sunday porch: Independence Ave.

Independence Ave., Washington, D.C. G. Parks, Library of CongressUpper porch of a house being torn down on Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., June 1942, by Gordon Parks for the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This picture is one of a series taken by Parks documenting the “demolition of private property along Independence Avenue opposite the Smithsonian Institution. . . to make way for government housing.”

Today the location is filled by some particularly unappealing government office buildings, built during the 1960s.

Up — or out? — here:
a problem of preposition,

my uneasy relation
with the world. Whether I’m

above it or apart. . . .

Jameson Fitzpatrick, from “Balcony Scene

Life in gardens: Birney, Montana

Montana ranch garden seat, 1941, M. Wolcott, Library of Congress

“Dudes in a covered wagon garden seat,” Quarter Circle U Ranch, Birney, Montana, August 1941, by Marion Post Wolcott for the U.S. Farm Security Administration.

Montana ranch garden seat 2, 1941, M. Wolcott, Library of Congress

Both photos are via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Wolcott had been charged with photographing the recovery of the western cattle industry. The Quarter Circle U ranch in Birney, Montana, like many others in the region, had begun entertaining dudes in the 1920s to augment ranch income, and so she photographed that side of the modern ranch business as well as cattle raising. The ranch scattered its grounds with covered wagon love seats designed for trysting young couples, many of whom purchased western wear as part of their Montana adventure.

— Mary Murphy, from “Romancing the West: Photographs by Marion Post Wolcott”

The Sunday porch: Mechanicsville, Md.

Mechanicsville MD 2, Library of CongressMr. and Mrs. Herbert on their porch in Mechanicsville, Maryland, June or July 1942, by Marjory Collins, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (all three photos).

Mechanicsville MD, Library of Congress

All the elements of a good screened porch are here: a slipcovered glider and a wicker chair, a rocker with a cushion (because the caned seat is nearly gone), a Boston fern and an angel-wing begonia, a newspaper and a copy of Good Housekeeping.  Both Herberts are wearing summertime white shoes.

Only a little iced tea could make it any nicer. Judging from the way they are dressed, I would guess this is a Sunday afternoon.

Mechanicsville MD house, Library of Congress

The couple — Charles P. and Bessie D. — built their Queen Anne house in 1909, although, curiously, it appears that they only bought the land beneath it in 1914, according to a Maryland Historic Sites Inventory Form filled out in the 1990s or later.

Charles had moved to the the area to be an express agent for the railroad.  Bessie was the town dressmaker. They lived in the house until their deaths during the 1960s.

A photo attached to the Inventory Form shows that the screening on the east side of the porch was later removed and some lacy trim was added along the entire front.  I could not find the house in a current Google Maps satellite view, however.

As usual, I wish we could see more of the garden.

Marjory Collins took these pictures about six months after moving to Washington, D.C., to join the documentary photographers of the U.S. Office of War Information.  Her “upbeat, harmonious images” of that time “reflected the OWI editorial requests for visual stories about the ideal American way of life,” according to a biographical essay about her by the Library of Congress.

Vintage landscape: harvest

A few beautiful Kodachrome images of the season. . .

Harvest, 1940s, Library of Congress“Exhibit of crops and vegetables at the Pie Town, New Mexico, Fair,” 1940, by Russell Lee.

The story of Pie Town and of the photos Lee took there is here, in Smithsonian Magazine.

Harvest, 1940s, Library of CongressMrs. Jim Norris canning vegetables, Pie Town, New Mexico, 1940, by Russell Lee. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Harvest, 1940s, Library of Congress“Display of home-canned food,” between 1941 and 1945, photographer not noted.

All three images were taken for the U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information on the then new Kodachrome color transparency film.  All via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Oh! for a thousand pumpkin seeds,
To plant for my son John;
He says that pumpkin pies are good
When the winter time comes on.

Robert Charles O’Hara Benjamin, from “The Farmer’s Soliloquy

Vintage landscape: California living

Back yard, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of Congress

I just like this life-in-the-garden photo by Russell Lee, * of a (May) 1942 Turlock, California, backyard.  (Unfortunately, it’s not very sharply focused.)  The caption, possibly by the photographer, reads:

Housewife waters the lawn. All garden furniture and barbecue pit were made by her husband; about one out of every three houses in this town has such an arrangement in the backyard, and during the summer months people eat and spend many hours in their yards.

I particularly like the rolling sofa thing with the awning.  Turlock is located in central California between Modesto and Merced.

Lee was working for the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information at the time.  He seems to have been sent to Turlock to photograph townfolks being resilient in the face of changes brought on by the war.  He took a number of photographs of this family, described in the Library of Congress online catalogue as from the “upper middle income group.”

Grillling steaks, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Man of the house barbecues steaks over open grill in his backyard. This family keeps vegetables, fruits and meats in frozen food lockers in town.”

Setting the table, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Husband and wife get ready for dinner in their backyard. Menu: barbecued steaks, fresh peas, potato salad, potato chips, celery and olives, strawberry shortcake, and coffee.”

The package around the loaf of bread says, “Better Bread.”  Over the hedge, the neighbors seem to be putting in a greenhouse.

Tending the garden, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Housewife works in her vegetable garden. She lives in small town where there is ample space for gardens; says she would move to country if she couldn’t have a garden in town.”

It’s quite impressive — and particularly that she works it in a dress.  Here’s another view, below:

Son's garden, Turlock, CA, 1943, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Housewife helps her son with his garden.”

Arranging flowers, Turlock, CA, 1942, by Russell Lee, Library of CongressAbove: “Housewife arranging flowers in her kitchen.”

I like her dotted swiss curtains.

I’m going to take a break from blogging for a few weeks (except for “The Sunday porch”), but I’ll be back for GB Bloom Day in October.


* All photos here via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.