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Meet the McRaiths: 1942

Meet the McRaiths: 1942

February 1942. "Meeker County, Minnesota. Mike McRaith and family. He farms eighty acres." Acetate negative by John Vachon for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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The two boys appear to be the same age; I'm guessing they're fraternal twins. The one sitting on the floor has been subdued, likely by his mother. The one on the tricycle has both his mother's worried attention and his father's hands poised to stop any sudden movements. "Please Mr. Vachon. Hurry up and take the picture!"

WIsh we knew the backstory of these photographs

I don't mean the history of the subjects themselves - the Shorpy community are a crackerjack corps of researchers.

What I'd like to know -

How did Vachon (and others) get these folks to sit for portraits? This one shows a respectable setting, but some of them show the subjects in settings which a proud person might well not choose to be portrayed to the world.

What did they tell the people about how to pose? This one frankly has some strange poses and expressions.

How did they decide which negatives to publish? It sure would be interesting to see the (probably lost forever) outtakes.

[Documentation, not publication, was the primary goal here. John Vachon's photos for the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information are all online, including the dozens of pictures he took of the McRaiths. - Dave]

The Wright name of the county

Robert Ried Reid, the author of "Picturing Minnesota: 1936-1943" (1989), interviewed Mike McRaith and his relatives in the late 1980s when writing the chapter of the book dedicated to the Vachon pictures of the McRaith family farms. He explained that Mike - one of ten children of Jerry and Fanny McRaith - and his brother Pat had managed the main farm owned by their parents and located in Meeker County. But "two years later Mike married and bought a 75-acre farm in Wright County near Montrose, some thirty-five miles from the McRaith farms." A footnote, citing a 1987 interview with John McRaith, explained that "the photographs of Mike and his family were taken near Montrose in Wright County, as indicated in the corrected captions."

The "corrected captions" are apparently not on the Library of Congress versions of the photos.

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than ...

Looks like Junior is just propped up against the furniture recovering from his frontal lobotomy.

Mind over Mater

I just love the expression on Mom's face there. She looks mortified for some reason.

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