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Modern Family: 1941

Modern Family: 1941

October 1941. "Mrs. Melvin Rivers, some of her children and her father-in-law in their new relocation corporation farm to which they have moved just recently, near Orwell, New York." Medium format negative by Jack Delano. View full size.


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Modern Times

Where rural electrification came by cooperatives in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, many times the only electric fixture in the room was the overhead light. You had a socket you could screw into the bulb socket that allowed you to have either light, and electric plug, or sometimes both.

For a long time, baseboard sockets were a rarity in the country. because people were used to doing without electric items but they needed light at night. It was also difficult to rewire an existing house. In this case I think I see a baseboard socket behind the boy at right. That could be the only one in the whole room. Many old farmhouses are still like that today.

Looks like there is a plumbing, heating pipe, or wiring run back in the left corner of the room.

Minus One

It looks like Grandpa is missing the middle finger on his right hand. Maybe Baby got hungry and gummed it down a bit.

Grandpa does look like he's lived a very hard-working life, teething babies aside.


Room, Feet, Walls, but not the lonely flowerpot and cup.

No (fashion) victims

I'm always impressed about the self-consciousness kids of that era show in these photos.

Imagine a modern kid posing barefoot, in an empty room and with torn bibs? Distinctly unfashionable bibs, and unfashionably torn?

How embarrassing!

Where's the Mini-Bar?

If they installed one at the Rivers abode, liquor would have been hard to come by. The Women's Christian Temperance Union was founded in 1874, but by then Orwell itself had been officially "dry" for 31 years. It remains so to this day, one of only ten such towns with no alcohol for sale of any kind in the Empire State.

The closest vote to repeal was held in 1971. It failed by one vote. So buttermilk it had to be for Mrs. Rivers and her farming brood.

Unless they fancied a bit of travelling.

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