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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Doomsday: 1936

Doomsday: 1936

March 1936. "Heavy black clouds of dust rising over the Texas Panhandle" — evidence of the forces that were driving thousands of farm families in Texas and Oklahoma to the West Coast in the great Dust Bowl migration chronicled in "The Grapes of Wrath." Medium format negative by Arthur Rothstein. View full size.

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One More Year

The car is a 1934 or 1935 Buick. There were no external changes to differentiate one model year from the other. The biggest change between the two model years was an automatic choke under the hood of all 1935 models. Buick would introduce all new models in 1936.

Name that car

Does anyone know the make, model, and year of the car in the photo? I have zero skills when it comes to this kind of thing.

Mom was nearly there...

My mother grew up in Western Oklahoma in the 1930's. Even though her town (Elk City) was not in the middle of the Dust Bowl, she remembers that they still experienced it - and her family had friends and relatives that lived near 'Ground Zero' (Texas/Oklahoma panhandle).


Read somewhere where static electricity was a huge problem during these storms.

Dusty old Dustbowl

Back in 1976 I lived in far western Oklahoma. One day a big, dark cloud blew up onto the northwest horizon. The day grew dark, then even darker, as if the sun had set in the east, and steetlights came on just as the edge of the dust storm hit town. People tried to drive with their headlights on, but finally gave up and stopped to weather the blowing wind and blackness. Lasted maybe an hour, and even in modern buildings with metal-framed windows, the fine fine dust insinuated its way into the rooms of our building.

The only real dust storm I ever saw, and one of the reasons I no longer live in Oklahoma.

The same view up North

These dust storms were also common as far north as Saskatchewan, buried fences, buildings, roads etc.
Reading stories from the 30's I was surprised at the amount of people that actually stayed in the dust bowl areas and did not migrate west. This part of history should be mandatory reading for everyone in North America.

Dusty window sills

I knew a guy in Oklahoma who said his mom was a clean freak and just about lost it during those dust storms. The dust would blow up against the house and would blow under the window frames and pile up like snow drifts on the window sills inside. He also said they had two steps up to the front porch and the dust drifted like snow does up to the top step.

Dust Bowl

My family is from the Texas Panhandle (Clarendon) and my grandparents have told me stories about this awful time. They said that the wind and dust were blowing so bad that the barbed wire fences would glow. Amazing picture!!

I can picture it now

My mother also was born and grew up in the Texas Panhandle, in the little train-stop town of Claude. She would have been 14 in 1936. I recall her telling me of the dust clouds so thick that they literally blackened the sky, but I never could fully picture it in my mind (or accept that it wasn't another "tall Texas tale") until I saw this photo. Scary, indeed. Like so many other families, they left Texas for California in search of a better life around this time.

Family Memories

My Mom grew up in the Texas panhandle (Dimmit) and would have been a teenager in 1936. She has told me many stories of what the dust storms were like but it puts it in perspective when you see it like this. Thanks for the education!

Arthur Rothstein for the day!

Hi Dave, this is exactly what I called it when I forwarded it on to the rest of the family. Arthur Rothstein picture of the day! Thanks so much for sourcing these. I live in Hong Kong and it is wonderful to keep in touch with my Dad's work through your photos. Really appreciate it. Wishing you a great year in 2008! Eve

[Thanks Eve! (I'll never run out, will I? Another good one here.) And Happy New Year to you too, way over on the other side of the world. - Dave]

Amazing photo!

Dave, you did it again. That is one incredible photograph taken by my father! He loved his contrasts and this is another one I have never seen. Thanks

[I saw this and knew I had my picture for the day. Thank you Arthur Rothstein! And daughter! - Dave]

This Land

Makes me think of some of the "hard travelin'" Woody Guthrie might have gone through.

Dust Bowl

The book "The Worst Hard Time" gives frightening accounts of what happened during the Dust Bowl. At times these dust storms blew to the East Coast. Great book, awful topic.

Dust Storm

This is one unbelievable shot. Scary as hell though. I can't blame anyone for trying to get out of there.

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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