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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • NORTH TUSCANY COAST, 1948

Madonna of the Spuds: 1943

Madonna of the Spuds: 1943

December 1943. "Lynn Massman, wife of a second-class petty officer who is studying in Washington, preparing dinner." View full size. Photograph by Esther Bubley for the Office of War Information.

 

Wool without wrinkles

I think even everyday dresses could be made from wool material then. I remember wearing wool dresses to elementary school in the 60s and having to press them inside out. I did my own ironing from the age of 9 or 10, which I think is rare now but not unusual then.

Lynn's cookware

[Note: This comment is by Lynn's son Bascomb]

When I knew her cooking, in the 1960s, she made practically everything in a pressure cooker. When she was dying of cancer in 1983 and on morphine, she rambled on quite frequently in her stupor about taking the weight off of the pressure cooker and letting the steam out. They talk about your "life passing before your eyes" when you're dying. When Mom was dying her mind was mostly in the kitchen. That was obviously a major part of her life -- as a mother of eight children.

I don't remember a pressure cooker ever blowing up, as urban legends warn they might, but I do remember beef and vegetables that were practically pre-chewed, they were so cooked. The reason she used the pressure cooker was speed. She called it the original microwave. She could come home from work at her tailor shop at 5 and have dinner for a hefty hubby and a mess of kids on the table by 6.

As for the Pyrex double boiler, I wouldn't be surprised if the top half was all she had. Either she broke the bottom part, or got the top cheap -- or free as a hand-me-down from her landlady.

[Wow. Thank you for sharing. A lot of the people who visit this Web site are fans of your mom. What would she have thought! - Dave]

Boiling potatoes

She's putting those potatoes in the top half of a glass-handled Pyrex Flameware double boiler. I have the same double boiler, and while it's a beautiful thing, it's not what I'd use to cook potatoes. (Especially the top half, which is narrow at the base and might tip over.)

Massman Photos

We had a few prints of some of the pictures. I remember my mom saying they thought they might be published in Life magazine when they were taken. They were published in a local Washington D.C. magazine of some sort, perhaps a military periodical. I'm sure Lynn remembered Esther Bubley's name--she never forgot a name--a trait I unfortunately didn't inherit--but she never mentioned the photographer specifically, or even that she was a woman. I think she said something about how they were chosen. I vaguely remember her saying something about their young age and the new baby and how her and my dad were fairly attractive, but not so good looking as to look artificial or staged. What's uncanny for me as I look at these photos is how much my second daughter, who is a young mother herself, looks like her grandmother. My daughters barely remember Lynn, who died relatively young in her early sixties. Even I never knew my mother when she looked like this. She was almost forty when I was born.

Mom & Dad

Hugh and Lynn Massman are/were my parents. Lynn passed away in 1983, Joe in 2000 and Hugh in 2002. It's not at all unlikely that Lynn made the dress she's wearing in the spuds photo. She was an expert seamstress. Actually she hated being called a seamstress. She called herself a tailor. She ran a tailoring shop in a clothing store in the sixties and seventies, and also taught sewing in the fifties and sixties. I was the sixth of eight children Hugh and Lynn brought into the world. Their are five of us left. I have only seen about half of these photos. I'm ecstatically grateful to whoever got them posted.

[Thanks so much for writing, Bascomb. There are around 75 photos of your parents on the Library of Congress Web site. Click the link below

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/mdbquery.html

and type "massman" in the field at the top of the page, then click the Search button. (Actually there are even more if you count the uncaptioned photos, the dairy case among them. Click "Display images with neighboring call numbers" to find them.) Did they ever mention these photographs by Esther Bubley? How did she end up choosing your mom and dad as her subjects? - Dave]

I love to wear a dress

I love to wear a dress and an apron.

But not all the time. When men start wearing suits (and don't forget that HAT!) everywhere, I'll switch to gloves and hats like my grandmother wore. I promise.

I'm sure all of you…

…guys out there still pining for the “good ol’ days” when women wore dresses all still wear suit & tie and a hat to work, right? Or to baseball or football games? Or to the movies? Or everywhere? Well, if you don't, you're part of the same relaxation of formality that our society has undergone.

Besides, if you were to ask a bunch of women, they'd probably say that men look better in suits and ties, rather than in a track suit or jeans and a t-shirt. But I bet that none of you guys would want to have to wear them all the time.

My two cents

I don't know who invented pants, but I have to cast my vote for ladies in dresses. They're quite lovely and greatly appreciated.

[That's also true when they're not in dresses. - Dave]

Paper Towel

Arthur Scott of Scott Paper developed the first paper towel in 1907. He had a load of paper that had been made to thick for toilet paper and there was a market from schools as a way to prevent the transmission of cold germs and such. So much of what we think of as "modern" conveniences aren't.

"Notice the long-neck milk

"Notice the long-neck milk bottle and the heavy fabric her dress is made of. It sure would be nice if women still used dresses instead of trying their best too look like men today."

Too true.

A woman still looks best in a dress.

Besides, pants were invented by men for men.

Paper towels?

Is that a roll of paper towels peeking out behind the curtain? I thought that was a "modern" convenience?

Massman Obit

Another obituary for Hugh Massman.

The Massmans

Check out all the pictures of this couple here.

I've become obsessive over this but this has just become interesting info to me. I have posted the pics that I found regarding Hugh and Lynn Massman.

Well further investigating seems to have uncovered that they were friends at some point to Robert Bulchis, who in 1997 wrote his own biography and posted it online. It contains several mentions of Hugh and Lynn and it seems they were friends even after the war.

I also found an obituary for a Hubert J "Hugh" Massman.

It seems that Hugh remarried at some point. It mentions in the biography that Hugh and Lynn's firstborn son was named Joe. Which would coincide with the pictures from the blog which mentions the baby's name to be Joey.

That fabric looks itchy and

That fabric looks itchy and rather manly to me. The pouf sleeve is cute, but that apron, not so much.

Hot Potato

I say "Hot Potato"

Dee you can wear them, but include me out

You can go to the expense, time, and incredible and undeniable discomfort of wearing dresses all the time if you want. Just let those of us who are more interested in comfort than conforming to other people's antediluvian ideas wear pants if we want.

Amazing, isn't it, that the people who bleat the most about "freedom" really only want the freedom to force everyone to conform to what they think is best.

What?

Yeah. Being told how to be a "lady" was so much fun!

While a lot of women wear pants of some sort today, the greater majority are still extremely womanly in appearance.

Details

Notice the long-neck milk bottle and the heavy fabric her dress is made of. It sure would be nice if women still used dresses instead of trying their best too look like men today.

 
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