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Frosty Mugs: 1940

Frosty Mugs: 1940

November 1940. "Pierre, South Dakota, on a cold night." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

        About these images: The exposures by John Vachon, Marion Post Wolcott and other FSA photographers that we've been posting over the past few months may be around 80 years old, but have only recently been scanned in high resolution and made available for download by the Library of Congress. So in that sense they're "new" -- the photo above, for example, is from a batch of around 300 negatives scanned in October 2019 and published to the LOC website on December 12. These high-quality scans are gradually replacing the low-resolution images that have populated the LOC's online archive since 2011.


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Great news!

Dave, thanks for the note about the high resolution scans at the LOC. I started visiting the American Memory site soon after it came online in the mid 1990s, spending many hours perusing the collections, especially the FSA/OWI, Gottscho-Schleisner and Horydczak collections, and downloading the TIFF versions of photos (the highest resolution then available).

I'm glad to hear that higher resolution scans are becoming available - I know it will take them some time to go back through collections already scanned. I'll be watching as they make progress through my favorites, to see what wallpaper and screen saver collections I can put together.

It isn't your fault, Dave

But your wonderful site keeps reminding of things I did when making a living in the zany world of photography.

The Library of Congress, which by itself is worth a visit to DC, is far more than one building and the (if I remember right) Jefferson LOC building, across the street from the old LOC, has THOUSANDS or MILLIONS of photos and a lot of other wonderful stuff.

Once, for a low-budget FEMA brochure in the 1990s, I went there to snag some public-domain photos of hurricanes. I recall walking through a room full of gorgeous globes five feet or so in diameter, into a big room with tons of filing cabinets. The LOC person said, "Here you go; start with the hurricane photos in these three filing cabinets." Overwhelming! And amazing.

Back in the late 1980s, when I was a White House consultant, I visited the Pentagon photo lab, which was then on Bolling Air Force Base. May still be there. There were four or five Navy techs in civilian clothes digitizing military photos. Using flatbed scanners, they were running through Gardner and Brady Civil War glass plates.

It was a painstaking process and I asked the guy who ran the place how many photos they had to do. He said their library had something like five million photos and guessed that, even considering things would go faster when they got to the film era and scanning technology would be improved, it would be two or three hundred years of work.

One of the photo labs there had processed the autopsy photos of JFK.

I was lucky to have been able to see such stuff and I thank Dave and his staff for all the hard work they do for our benefit. They make it look easy, but I know it ain't, and they deserve any and all support we can provide.

Thanks, SHORPY.COM!!! You have enriched us all.

Next Stop Pottersville

That is some glorious curlicue neon in the Sun-Set bar's windows. I can picture George Bailey running past the bar and wondering what happened to Bedford Falls.

As the scene appears today.

FSA Photos

Thanks, Shorpy, for the beautiful and haunting FSA photos, especially those made by John Vachon.

Value to Joy Ratio

The work at the LOC is easily one of the more useful government institutions. And, it's so wonderful that you take the time to scurry through their archives to bring us these gems each and every day. I'm grateful to you both. Viewing these images brings joy to each day. Welcomed joy.

The Sun Has Set

Alas, the frosty mugs of suds may be gone, but other commerce lives on in this edifice -- the circa 1884 Karcher Building on Pierre Street -- and adjacent, with minor modifications.

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