“Garden – lot 9, block 11. . . . Garden of $20 a month home,” Fairfield, Alabama, 1917, via Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Fairfield was a planned community built in 1910 for the workers of U.S. Steel’s plants in the Birmingham area. Its (mostly white) residents could either rent or purchase modern houses with indoor plumbing and central heating. There were also parks and playgrounds, churches, a public library, and 30,000 newly planted trees and shrubs.
The photograph is one of over sixteen thousand created or collected by Frank G. Carpenter and his daughter, Frances, to illustrate his geography textbooks and popular travel books.
These autochromes are three of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.