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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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