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Cozy Kitchen: 1940

Cozy Kitchen: 1940

December 1940. "Bath, Maine. War boom in a New England industrial town. Inside the home of Ralph Hart, a worker at the shipyards. The house is one of a small settlement of shacks springing up a few miles out of Bath." Acetate negative by Jack Delano. View full size.


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The fraying armrest on that chair is crying out for some duct tape, which sadly won't be invented until 1943 ...

General Observation

I've been a lurker here for years, but never have anything useful or specifically relevant to say, so here's a general observation about all the photographs here.

They all seem more vivid, alive, and real than other images I see on my computer screen. They show a real world of real people. I don't get a sense of the past frozen in time, it's like they're glimpses of lives being lived. When I look at news sites, contemporary events, nothing strikes me in this way.

Thank you.

Ralph Hart

It may be a coincidence, but the April 1940 census includes a 51-year-old Ralph Hart from Bath, whose occupation is listed as a fireman at a shipyard, who was then living six miles down the Kennebec River from Bath in Phippsburg. But seven sons and daughters between 19 and 4 were listed as living with him and his wife Eva (11 years younger), so if it's the same Ralph Hart, this "shack" may have been a home away from home for him and Eva.


I'm supposing that a defense industry job came open suddenly and Mr. Hart showed up, found a place to crash, picked up a few items in the local thrift shops and got to work. Maybe he has a roommate or two.

Those are fine-looking biscuits so somebody in the place has kitchen skills.

Part of the story

I’d like to think the man and the woman of the house have just had coffee and biscuits with their guest, the photographer, Jack Delano, who managed to shoot the table without Mr. and Mrs. Hart around, while he was setting up the lights.

Mom Would Recognize This

My mother spent her childhood in nearby Vermont, although she went to high school in Maine. At one point during the Great Depression, her family lived in a horse barn. Based on her description of that place, this photo would be very familiar to her.

Re: "clean and tidy" by Matilda Fitzgerald. In her Yankee sensibility, Mom always said, "There's no shame in being poor if you're clean."

Spring Has Sprung

Surely a residence in this condition didn't recently "spring" up? It looks to have "sprung" up a decade or more ago. Regardless, after the hardships of the '30s the inhabitants are probably grateful for food, shelter and steady work. Hopefully the next five years and beyond brought them a prosperity they never dreamed of.

PS: My first discretionary purchase would have been insulation. Maine winters are cold!!!

It's five degrees somewhere

I'm a bit surprised there isn't a thermometer joining the barometer. "Well, those are for outside" you're thinking. With uninsulated walls, in the middle of winter, I'm not sure there's much difference.

Maine ... December

That peeling thick paper over clapboard sure makes me appreciate modern insulation.

I'm shivering,

Just thinking of experiencing a Maine winter in that uninsulated shack. The stove at the photo's edge leads me to believe that the occupants will survive nicely, if they have an adequate supply of wood or coal to fuel it.

There can be no denying, folks were made of tougher stuff back then.

Genteel Poverty

Despite the worn condition of the furniture, everything is clean and tidy. The occupants appear to have just stood up from a light supper of biscuits. And what's the significance of the arrangement on the wall—a key, a lock, a barometer, a 19th century print? There's a story worth telling here.

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