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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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Montana Cowboys: 1939

Montana Cowboys: 1939

June 1939. Big Horn County, Montana. "Cowhands singing after day's work. Quarter Circle U Ranch roundup." Medium format acetate negative by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

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Home Sweet Home

Being a native Montanan born on a large sheep spread, this looks very much like home. It really hasn't changed much either, thankfully. I'll certainly never live anywhere else. As my grandfather would have said: "Well, I'll be go to hell, savvy photo ya got there!"

Thanks for the excellent photos, Dave.

Boone H
Roundup, Montana


Nothing else to add, just wow!

Parlor guitar

It's definitely a six-stringer, probably a "parlor guitar" --- a small-bodied instrument made for small venues.

See here:

and here:

Cowboy Guitar

That probably is a tenor guitar. These smaller guitars were popular because they're easy to pack along when out on the trail. Nowadays backpackers sometimes carry them. Martin makes a lot of these, and calls them "tenor size." (Elderly Instruments link.)

Marble Row Country

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Can anybody tell if that's a tenor guitar? It looks like it has six strings, but the body's rather small.

Light in a can

Just curious how these light cans were powered in 1931?

Or are you suggesting it was shot in a studio?

I guess the items that appear to be light cans couldn't be logs on the old campfire...or some other non-staged artifact?

[These were shot outdoors at the Quarter Circle U. The lights were probably powered off a car battery. And the year is 1939, not 1931. - Dave]


It really does look like a movie still.

Lighting effect

Note also that the photo staged the light cans to give the appearance of campfire. Between the haircuts and the phony set up, this smacks a bit of propaganda.

[There's nothing phony about it. It's one of more than 300 photographs Arthur Rothstein took of cowhands at the Quarter Circle U in 1939. A few examples below. - Dave]

Crew cut

Did you notice how everybody just had his hair cut. Quite short.


This photo is fantastic! Thanks, Dave!

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