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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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A Face in the Crowd: 1942

A Face in the Crowd: 1942

October 1942. "Thousands of North American Aviation employees at Inglewood, California, look skyward as the bomber and fighter planes they helped build perform overhead during a lunch period air show. This plant produces the battle-tested B-25 'Billy Mitchell' bomber, used in General Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, and the P-51 'Mustang' fighter plane, which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe." View full size. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer for the Office of War Information.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

When America was young

I notice there's hardly any gray hair in this photo. Though I'm in Florida, at my place of work (a building with hundreds of employees), people without any gray hair are a minority.

Aircraft workers

My dad worked in aircraft factories before and during the war. At one point he was called up for service, and the examiner noticed he could only see out of one eye. Told him he'd be of more use to the country building airplanes.

Consolidated Fort Worth

I like this photo - I just wish we could see more, since I actually work at this plant now.

6. Apparently the men wearing ties are the "management" and as apparent are together because the workers seem to not mingle with them.

They look like engineers to me. There are more jobs than aircraft assembly.

The caption says they are on a break, but it appears that many that aren't looking at the camera are facing to the left, if not looking that way, as if they are waiting for something to happen on the other side of the fence.

It's possible they were watching something or several somethings take off. The plant is side by side with the runway, and planes still take off and land all the time. I'm used to seeing F-16s and C-130s, but I'm wouldn't turn my back if I'm just standing there on break.

No fat people

Where are all the fat folks?, there are none. I've noticed this in photos that predate 1960, everyone looks like they're the right weight. We can assume they all smoked like chimneys and got lots of bad diseases like TB, rickets and other things we'd consider less of a health problem today. Nevertheless it's scary to think that an entire society has become so inclined towards obesity in less than 60 years. Just about the time TV hit the mainstream and car ownership skyrocketed. Coincidence?

Re: Surprise

I think these men were probably deferred from military draft because they were engaged in essential war work.

The deferred classifications for occupational status were:

II-A Men necessary in their civilian activity
II-B Men necessary to national defense
II-C Men necessary to farm labor

So many men of military age

If you had a job that was vital to the war effort, such as building bombers, your draft classification was 2-A, "Registrant deferred because of civilian occupation (except agriculture or activity in study)." Meaning, you were not going to be drafted.

I know a lot of men who studied engineering in the 1960s so they could get jobs in the aerospace industry, to gain that deferment.

Men of military age.

The war, for America, was less than one year old when this picture was taken. Also, contrary to the myth, not every able-bodied American male felt compelled to run down to the recruiting center and enlist on 12/8/41. eventually, conscription was used to fill the ranks.

Additionally, the physicians at induction centers were shocked by the effect of 10 years of hard economic depression on general health of American men. Many willing young recruits were turned away because they just weren't fit enough the stand the rigors of training and fighting.


I'm surprised to see so many men of military age.

Every Face

I've been looking at every face to see if my maternal grandfather is in this crowd. He was born in 1898, served in the navy in WWI, and had 2 children when this photo was taken. I know only that he worked in an aircraft factory in Cowtown during the war...don't know which one. Something tells me he would't have been standing patiently by the gate while eating lunch...more likely he was running a craps game in the shade under the wing of the aircraft in the top left corner.

Goober Pea

Clark Gable

Check out Clark Gable next to the gal in the white spectacles!

Hilarious! I frgot that

Hilarious! I forgot that one.

But seriously, can you imagine how different a present day photo of a couple hundred American factory workers would look? An alien viewing the two photos would probably think it was two different species.

It was probably the more the active lifestyle that kept these people thin than the food. I have an old cookbook from the 50's and it seems every recipe back then started out with heaps of butter, lard or (gasp!) bacon fat.

Gamblers Visor

I bet the the man a "gamblers visor" is an accountant. They were used to prevent eye strain.

More here:

I still think

Great picture!! Yet I still think the buttons are to apply for the job, and thats their number in line. They all look like they are waiting to go through the fence to the table on the other side. I'd bet this was a type of 'job fair' despite what the caption said. Theres so many of them dressed like individuals, not co-workers, if you know what I mean.

[The caption is from the photographer and there's no reason to think he is wrong. In fact, people drinking and snacking indicates break time. -Ken]

employee badges

I think those yellow buttons are employee ID badges. In the days before instant photos and laminated paper "nametags", numbered buttons were sometimes used. I have one from a cannery that looks similar to these.

"I could not find a single

"I could not find a single overweight person in this crowd."

The fella to the left of thermos guy looks a little husky. Okay, 1. :-)

The caption says they are on a break, but it appears that many that aren't looking at the camera are facing to the left, if not looking that way, as if they are waiting for something to happen on the other side of the fence.

Try Again

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I have seen overweight people on any Shorpy photos.

Here ya go:

I'm observing

1. Only 2 men smoking and one man with a pipe.

2. The man with the pipe could be Norman Rockwell (looks like him a little).

3. The girl in red with her hand on her forehead is thinking "I could'a had a V8."

4. Why is the man to the extreme left wearing a gamblers visor?

5. Below "visor man" one of the few men wearing shades sports a Hitler mustache, which I think might not be considered a good idea during 1942.

6. Apparently the men wearing ties are the "management" and as apparent are together because the workers seem to not mingle with them.

7. The girl with the black coat and blue dress (in the middle of the picture) is beautiful.

Great picture Dave, the clarity is outstanding. The more I look at this group the more I see...So many stories here.

Yellow buttons

I suspect that the yellow buttons are union membership badges...


were no overweight people then, only the few naturally stout. No one had a potbelly or a fat face.

I could not find a single

I could not find a single overweight person in this crowd. You would have a hard time taking such a photo in the USA these days!

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I have seen overweight people on any Shorpy photos.

What do you suppose

the yellow buttons with the numbers are for? Could they be their IQ? Or the number of friends they have? The fellow in the blue shirt who looks to be picking his nose doesn't seem to have a button. They are all have different numbers, as far as I can tell. A crude security badge? I love this shot. This picture looks like Norman Rockwell could have painted it. Classic. I love the pocket protectors, too. I can't believe I used them for so many years.

[The buttons are ID badges similar to the one below, from a different photo. - Dave]

Repeat after me

I will never complain about my crowded lunchroom again!

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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