Yale's searchable and mappable digital archive of Depression-era photographs contains over 170,000 images (physically housed by the Library of Congress), taken throughout the United States. In order to garner support and provide justification for New Deal programs, the Farm Security Administration sent photographers (including cultural icons Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein) across the country to document the state of America between 1935 and 1945.
The effort is totally unique in size and scale for a federal government-sponsored photography project and you should definitely take some time to browse through the fascinating results.The archive (launched last September) is easily searchable by location, year, photographer, and classification.
these kids were literally always playing in undesirable places
One of the first things I searched for was "children playing." (Because it's Monday, and I want to look at some cute kids with bowl cuts, damn it!) Refining the search by the classification "in street and undesirable places" narrowed the results negligibly because, as it turns out, kids in the late 1930s and early 1940s were literally always playing in undesirable places.
Now, when I was a kid, I played in undesirable places myself. Mainly the basement, while my mother ran on the treadmill and watched Pretty Woman, or in boxes of my grandmother's old JCPenney catalogs. However, while I spent the majority of my childhood bored out of my skull and / or struggling to understand why Richard Gere was so offended by dental floss, I did not spend it perilously close to killing myself and everyone around me.
The same, unfortunately, is not something that can be said for these children:
Child playing with boards at the nursery school at the Queensbridge housing project, Queens, New York.
Boys playing with bows and arrows near railroad yards, Dubuque, Iowa.
Children playing in junk pile, Jackson, Ohio.
Child of white migrant worker playing with automobile tools near Harlingen, Texas.
Children playing near dead dog, South Side of Chicago, Illinois.
Mormon children playing on barn roof, Santa Clara, Utah.
Children playing around old coal tipple, Scotts Run, West Virginia.
I know that this decade was a very tough decade in which to be a parent. I have seen Cinderella Man many, many times. But I don't know — it seems like it wouldn't have been that hard to say, at a minimum, enforce rules like "no playing with dead animals," and "please don't give the three year-old a bunch of hammers to play with, even if you do also give him a bottle of what might be iodine."
Just, give your kids tetanus shots before you let them play in heaps of metal. Don't encourage your children to hang out on a sloping roof even if it is totally 'gram-able. Don't let your kids watch Pretty Woman at the age of four. These are just a couple of the things I know to be good advice. I am not yet a parent, but simply a human who makes a basic effort to avoid death and other disasters.
This whole thing reminds me that I should be watching this right now: