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About the Photos

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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Little House: 1938

Little House: 1938

November 1938. "Home of rural rehabilitation client, Tulare County, California. They bought 20 acres of raw unimproved land with a first payment of 50 dollars which was money saved out of relief budget (August 1936). They received a Farm Security Administration loan of $700 for stock and equipment. Now they have a one-room shack, seven cows, three sows, and homemade pumping plant, along with 10 acres of improved permanent pasture. Cream check approximately 30 dollars per month. Husband also works about ten days a month outside the farm. Husband is 26 years old, wife 22, three small children. Been in California five years. 'Piece by piece this place gets put together. One more piece of pipe and our water tank will be finished'." Medium format negative by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

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Art Deco wagon

The wagon with the streamline pants seems to be a 1930s Metalcraft Scamp "Art Deco" wagon, one of which sold for $2,352.00 in the 2009 Barrett-Jackson auction.

Rural Electrification

As poor as the the family appear, they have the benefit of one of FDR's favorite projects, rural electrification. The wires off to the right may go to a barn with a butter churner and refrigerator for the milk.

Another One

There is a second, fancier wagon just to the right of the door. It has wheel skirts at least on the front wheels.

From hard times to success?

In contrast to so many other pictures we see here on Shorpy from this era this picture shows some pride in appearance. The wife and children seem to be clean and tidy, there's not a lot of junk piled up around their home and improvements are in progress. This couple is making a serious try for a good life.

I'd sure like to know how this all turned out. Tulare is in the center of California's Great Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world (and also the home of World Ag Expo, the world's largest agricultural show). Given hard work and luck this couple had the chance to pass a great farming/ranching operation on to their children.

If I could go back to 1938 I'd wish them all the luck in the world.

Things come around full circle

In 1938 this young family had a tiny house out of necessity and over the years their home likely grew much larger. Today in California their grandchildren might be looking at a Tiny House, a somewhat popular concept of living in homes of approximately 200 - 300 sq. feet. Looks like that little wagon needs a new wheel, but it will have to wait until the water pipe is purchased. Today a BMW or Lexus or an upscale SUV will be parked outside their Tiny House. Hopefully it will have all its wheels firmly attached.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

We ALL need to live like this for a while to get a little perspective on life.

29 Palms

There are some structures like this on the outskirts of Twenty Nine Palms, CA. I wonder if they are from the same program?

I love the details in the text

This illustrates people's willingness to work hard to get out of bad times during the Great Depression, sometimes with a little help. This is such a contrast to today where there are YouTube videos on how to maximize your take from the government giveaway programs. That's why these folks were part of the Greatest Generation. Thanks for this awesome photo and story.

Thousand-yard stare

Even small as it is in this image, the expression on that woman's face is striking. Only 22 years old and she's already seen the worst there is to see in life.


At one time, you could actually start with nothing and, with a small handout, build up a life for yourself. I wonder what happened to this family.

Oh, and Dorothea Lange's work is a national treasure.

SHORPY OLD 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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