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The Happy Homemaker: 1940

The Happy Homemaker: 1940

July 1940. Door County, Wisconsin. "Farm Security Administration rehabilitation borrower and family. The wife made the drapes, the chair covers, and papered the wall herself." Medium format negative by John Vachon for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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Interior design by Philip DeGuard.

Door County Cherry Harvest of 1945

Door County is famed for its sour cherry orchards. Five years after this picture was taken, when WW2 depleted the local workforce, German POWs were used to harvest them. As per the Geneva Convention, they were paid 80 cents a day in camp scrip, which could be spent on canteen items or put into a savings account.


Joy is writ as large on her face as pride is on his. Indulgence in self-pity or any sense of entitlement is glaringly absent. There was enlightened self-interest but I doubt they had time for faux outrage. There's no substitute for loving the life you have, and for being committed to it in all its ups and downs. Days come and days go and there she is, making a lovely, comfortable home and devoting herself to its occupants, her beloveds. They were the greatest generation indeed.


Dad looks a lot like Peyton Manning.

The actor

He kind of looks like Nicolas Cage.

Sacra Famiglia U.S.A.

I’ll bet it was a rare thing for happy handsome dad to be sitting in his work clothes on the brand new sofa. And what lovely strong fingers all three of them have!

Now I am impressed

Make draperies? Sure. Slipcovers? Not such a huge deal.

But I damned well doff my hat to a woman with enough skill to paper a wall like that.

A Homemaker, Literally

At some point, being called a "homemaker" became unfairly derisive. This woman's precision workmanship is remarkable. A super-zoomed inspection of the room reveals that the sofa has a box-pleated (and probably lined) skirt and every seam is welted, which is cording covered in bias-cut fabric, which was then inserted between the two layers of upholstery before stitching the seam. Harder still is to make smooth welts on the curves and corners of the cushions. Amazing, too, is that she probably did the work on a standard sewing machine. Beyond the sofa, notice that the wallpaper is perfectly matched and the seams are barely visible. The curtains appear to have an applied rather than printed contrast band, and the corner miters are perfect.


All that and pretty to boot. They all look like they love their very happy home.

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