20 Incredible Color Photographs Showing Life in Texas in the Early 1940s

On the eve of the Great Depression, most Texans lived on farms or ranches or in small towns. Though the previous decade saw successes in oil, the economy was still dominated by agriculture – cotton in the north, livestock in the west and a growing citrus industry in the south.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, many Texans believed the state’s rural nature would insulate the region from the worst of the financial crisis. As the nation’s economy collapsed, it became clear that Texas would suffer, too. Across the state, agriculture and the new industries of oil and lumber fell victim to the growing economic depression.

These vintage photographs are filled with pathos, but they also make the Great Depression seem otherworldly–wholely dissimilar from the vivid color of the struggling economy we now find ourselves in.

A big house on a Houston street, Texas, May 1943
A doctor giving a typhoid inoculation at a rural school, San Augustine County, Texas, April 1943
A general view of Amarillo, Texas, March 1943
Boy building a model airplane as girl watches, Texas, 1942
Boys flying a kite in front of the community center at the FSA camp, Robstown, 1942
Boys playing marbles, Robstown, Texas, 1942
Boys sitting on truck parked at the FSA labor camp, Robstown, Texas, Jan. 1942
Child of a migratory farm laborer in the field during the harvest of the community center’s cabbage crop at the FSA labor camp, Robstown, Texas, Jan. 1942
Community clothesline at the FSA labor camp, Robstown, Texas, 1942
Families of migratory workers in front of their row shelters at the FSA labor camp, Robstown, Texas, 1942
Gardens are planted in front of the row shelters, Robstown, 1942
Geologist examining cuttings from wildcat well, Amarillo, Texas, 1943
Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham Field, Fort Worth, Texas, Jan 1942
Row shelters at the FSA labor camp, Robstown, Texas, Jan. 1942
Rural school children, San Augustine County, Texas, 1943
Rural school children, San Augustine County, Texas, April 1943
Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas, June 1943
Workers on the Liberator Bombers, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 1942
Working with a sea-plane at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas, August 1942
Young woman at the community laundry on Saturday afternoon, Robstown, 1942

(Photos via The Library of Congress)

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