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0001, 0002, 0003 . . .

0001, 0002, 0003 . . .

October 1942. Inglewood, Calif. "Parts are marked with this pneumatic numbering machine in North American Aviation's sheet metal department." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer, Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Unsafe, but I look fabulous

She's wearing jewelry on a pneumatic press machine?

The parts on the table are rib sections; these fit between the longitudinal spars of a wing or control surface. The parts in the rear are fuselage formers; you can see the notches for the stringers that run down the side of the plane. North American Inglewood built both B-25 bombers and P-51 fighers during late 1942; judging from the size of the formers, these are probably P-51 Mustang parts.


[A preliminary note: We know that Alfred Palmer used floodlights for at least some of these large format Kodachromes. Hand-held floodlights and cabling are visible in a number of his photographs. - Dave]

Kodachrome, back in the day, was an absurdly slow film; that was one of the many prices you paid for shooting in color. Shots like this one were done with flashbulbs, and quite large ones. (My educated guess is that this was shot with one large bulb in a large reflector, off to camera left.) That was done, in part, to provide the necessary *amount* of illumination, but also to provide the right *color temperature* light - the floodlights in a factory would have made everything look horribly yellowish or orangeish, and light coming in through skylights and windows would likely have been too blueish.

You can still get the same look today with slide film, a high-powered flashgun, and a camera with a leaf-shutter that synchronizes flash at high speeds: well-lit subjects in foreground, inky blackness in the background.

Quite aside from the technical and aesthetic effects, this technique meant - for the wartime Kodachromes you see on Shorpy - that you only got to see the parts of the factories that, frankly, the government wanted you to see. No need to worry overly about accidentally disclosing wartime secrets off in the background of a photo when everything but the main subject is shrouded in darkness...

More Likely

While it's true that Hollywood was a magnet for attractive young women who would find their way into war work it think a couple of other factors are at work here. I have a suspicion that the photographers were looking very hard for attractive women for the photos. I suppose it's possible that Palmer might have found the two prettiest girls in the department to pose for this photo.

The other factor is that many of the women who worked in the war plants were the young wives of soldiers, sailors and airmen for whom California might be a long-term base before being shipped out. I don't suppose it would be unheard of for them to come to California while their husbands were based in the area and then gravitate into the war plants after - or even before - they shipped out.

Pneumatic Dolls

Do you think S. California was really a magnet in the early years of the film industry for attractive people hoping to become stars (and who later found themselves, cute as they were, running pneumatic numbering machines)?

Ummm . . .

What a doll.

Las Vegas

Palmer's Lighting

One interesting thing about these great old war production photos that Dave's been posting is the lighting. It looks like they kept the rest of the production area dark and then just lit the immediate working space. It would be fun to see a "making-of" shot.

Time lag

Interesting that all of my professionally-taken baby pictures were hand tinted in the early 30's. Wonder why they weren't in color to begin with.

[That would have been well before color print film (and developing) was available for the average camera. Kodachrome was a transparency film, first used for 16mm movies and then slides. It was not a print film. - Dave]

Re: Kodachrome

"Kodachrome color film made its debut in 1935."

Or as I refer to it, the year colors were invented.

Coloured Photos

I love these early coloured photos, they just make this time period so real and, well, normal. Sometimes it's hard to imagine the early 20th century without thinking that everything happened in sepia. Was the 1940s the earliest decade to have coloured photos like these?

[Color photography got its start in the 1890s. Kodachrome color film made its debut in 1935. - Dave]

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