JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Bless This Mess: 1939

Bless This Mess: 1939

October 1939. "Kitchen on FSA client farm home near Bradford, Vermont. Orange County." Acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Messy Kitchen

Anybody who did not live during the Great Depression will never understand how bad it was.

Farm Security Administration Photos

It must be remembered that the whole purpose of the FSA photography project was to influence the policy makers and get them on board with the numerous New Deal schemes of FDR. If this kitchen was clean and well-kept, Russell Lee would never have photographed it.

[Not so. He photographed plenty of tidy kitchens. - Dave]

Depressing . . .

It's possible that a parent has died or is critically ill, leaving the child to fend for him/herself most of the time. The filthy windows and dead or dying plants and flowers; the Singer treadle machine piled high with papers; plates and skillets full of congealed grease; spilled food on the table; the well-populated flypaper — all would seem to indicate that the the mother of this family is missing in action. A profoundly depressing photo.

[Mama is alive and well and very busy. - Dave]

Doesn't Match

Position of Legs and Feet on the floor do not match the position of the person standing. There's somebody else hiding back there.

[Um, no. - Dave]

What's in the bucket??

it's Vermont, probably maple syrup.

What clean means

I'm sorry but there's no excuse for living in squalor, no matter what the financial circumstances. Furthermore, filthy cannot be healthy. We were poor by most standards for a significant portion of my childhood, but my mother would not abide anything less than an immaculate house. Mama worked as a waitress, so from an early age my big sister and I were tasked with every chore there was: cleaning, doing laundry (wringer washer and clothesline), cooking, and child care (of the two littles). Our grades had better be up to snuff too, or else. Soap is cheap and elbow grease is free. Character is priceless. I don't say we were better than our slovenly counterparts, but we certainly were luckier.

Looks Okay to Me

If you're not ever inviting guests over, why waste time deciding what to keep and what to throw away, so long as you don't run out of space. If they have a dog, he doesn't care either.

The messy live longer, after adding in the time saved not cleaning up.

Rich messy people have more expensive clutter, is all.

Singer stitches

My maternal grandmother had a Singer that looked exactly like the one in a previous comment. As tiny kids, we were always curious about what she kept in those darned drawers. Mom told us to stay away from it as we would get stitches sewn into our hands if we weren't careful.

Cinco de Mesa

That table apparently has five legs, all on casters.

Singer Drophead

This is a drophead Singer treadle sewing machine from around the 1930s. Sewing machines such as this could be hidden making it appear like a fancy hall table.

Time to clean house

My parents used to tell me that during those years, people couldn't help being poor, but didn't have to live like pigs. I guess this backs that up.

Some nice antiques there

Good chance it's a Griswold #8 cast iron pan to the right of the sugar bowl and depression glass salt shaker. Wonder what's finger lickin good in that bucket??


Behind and to the left of our "homemaker" is a Singer sewing machine. I still have one identical to this that my Great grandfather bought for my great-grandma in 1913. It runs with a foot treadle and leather drive belt. I can still see Grandma using it as it ran at a blur.

At the end of her life, Grandma lived with us. One day she handed me a soft rubber grommet and told me to take it to the Singer store to buy another. The lady at Singer opened a drawer that was full of said grommets and handed me one.

The leather drive belt needs replacement and that rubber grommet is likely shot as well; but that old Singer looks pretty good after 108 summers!

Two Timer

So, is it 12:17 or 12:38?

All of the Flies

My goodness, just look at that flypaper at top center of the image.

Disturbing Mess

Out of all the kitchen photos that have been on Shorpy over the years, I think this one is the most disturbing. I've eaten meals in some pretty "interesting" places, but I'd have to pass on an offer to eat there.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.