Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Hope in Hard Times*


New Deal Photographs of Montana, 1936–1942

  • May 11 1919

New Deal Photographs of Montana, 1936–1942
by Mary Murphy
Winner of the 2003 Montana Book Award

In the 1930s and 1940s, four Farm Security Administration photographers were detailed to Montana to document the effects of the Depression on the state. The four—Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Wolcott, Russell Lee, and John Vachon—captured the many facets of the Depression in Montana: rural and urban, agricultural and industrial, work and play, hard times and the promise of a brighter future. Men and women who became some of America's best-known photographers, Rothstein, Wolcott, Lee, and Vachon's photographs are both stunning pieces of art and important historical documents. Today these striking images present an unforgettable portrait of a little-studied period in the history of Montana. Selected from the FSA Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the photographs in Hope in Hard Times offer viewers an unparalleled look at life in Montana in the years preceding the United States' entry into World War II.