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"Picturing the Century: 100 Years of Photography from the National Archives": Part I and Part II



Part I of this major exhibition of 20th-century photography was on display in the Circular Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC from March 12, 1999 through February 21, 2000.
Part II of this exhibition was on display in the Circular Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC through July 4, 2001.

Note: All of the documents featured in “Picturing the Century” are from the holdings of the National Archives. For prints, or for more information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Media Desk..


Part I: Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives

Washington, D.C. . . Breathtaking views of the American West; nostalgic images of rural America; anguished portraits of urban blight; and snapshots of Americans at work and at play, taken from the eye of famous and anonymous photographers are all included in a major exhibition entitled, "Picturing the Century: 100 years of Photography from the National Archives." The free exhibition opened March 12, 1999, in the National Archives Circular Gallery. This is the first time in 20 years that the National Archives and Records Administration has showcased its priceless collection of more than 8 million photographs. The exhibition will be on display through July 4, 2001. The National Archives Building is located on Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, Washington, DC.

Celebrating the end of the century, this unique photographic exhibition chronicles the major events of the last 100 years -- immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, the Wright Brothers' first flight, construction of the Empire State Building, Depression-era soup lines, Omaha Beach, the mushroom cloud, Lyndon Johnson taking the Presidential oath, U.S. Marines in Da Nang, footprints on the Moon, and war in the Persian Gulf. Some of these images are so famous that they are seared in our collective memory and have become synonymous with the events themselves. Other photographs offer us surprise historical glimpses from the past, and still others chronicle the changing technological landscape over the century.

Highlights of the 190 pictures include four vintage, signed originals by Ansel Adams; Lewis Hines' images of small children working on farms and in factories; Depression-era rural poverty seen through Dorothea Lange's camera lens; and Yoichi Okamoto's revealing candid photographs of President Lyndon Johnson.

"Picturing the Century" is made possible, in part by the generous support of Eastman Kodak Company. "As Kodak has played a significant role in recording the events of the last century, it is particularly meaningful for us to partner with the National Archives in presenting this exhibition," commented George Fisher, Chairman and CEO of Kodak. John Carlin, Archivist of the United States, expressed his delight that Kodak is a part of this millennium exhibit.

A catalogue, published in conjunction with the University of Washington Press, is available through the Museum Shop and can be ordered by phone, 1-800-234-8861.


"Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography" a Major Exhibition at the National Archives

Washington, DC. . . "Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives" is a unique selection of color and black and white photographs celebrating 100 years of American life, drawn from the National Archives and Records Administration vast archives of more than 8 million images. This major exhibition opened in the National Archives Circular Gallery in Washington, DC, on March 12, 1999 and will remain on display through July 4, 2001. The photographs in this exhibition touch on all aspects of 20th century life. Along with the pictures one expects the government to keep -- images of Presidents and their families, of major wars, and of international diplomacy -- there are also many surprises --breathtaking vintage prints by Ansel Adams, heartbreaking vignettes of abject poverty and despair by well-known photographers such as Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange, and snapshots of Americans at work and play by anonymous photographers. Taken as a whole, these 190 images reflect the kaleidoscopic nature of American life -- the ever-changing fabric that characterized this century. These photos capture fleeting moments in the rush of 20th-century events.

The exhibition opens with a portrait of American prosperity--Easter Sunday on Fifth Avenue in New York City, 1900, by an unknown photographer. The photograph reflects the innocence of the age -- pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages mingling together on New York's most fashionable street. There is no inkling of the first airplane, much less the first manned space flight, the two world wars with the intervening depression, racial unrest or the search for equality, all of which played major roles in shaping the 20th century and are pictured so strikingly in this new exhibition. Only a few miles away, but worlds apart, the hustle and bustle of Hester Street life is depicted in a 1903 photograph. A third photograph, thousands of miles away, shows another street scene at the dawn of the new century--this time Steadman Avenue in Nome, Alaska, painting a raw, frontier state.

In "Picturing the Century," as the years fold into decades, street scenes reflect the change of pace and complexity of life. A vintage 1942 print by an unknown photographer shows a shopping district in Harlem, newly recovered from the Great Depression. Frankfurters are selling for 5 cents, fish lunches for 10 cents. Four years later, a 1946 Russell Lee photograph of Welch, West Virginia, shows bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main street. Long lines of patrons snake down the block, waiting to see Van Johnson starring in the movie, "Born For Trouble." Fast-forward another five years, to post-war prosperity in Chicago's burgeoning skyline. Oliver E. Pfeiffer's photograph pictures pedestrians hurrying to avoid oncoming traffic on Michigan Avenue with the Carbon and Carbide Building, the London Guarantee & Accident Building, Lincoln Tower, Pure Oil, and the Wrigley Building in the background.

"Picturing the Century" is arranged chronologically and depicts many of the momentous events of the century, as well as larger social trends. The initial section on the early twentieth century, for example, includes historic photographs of the Wright Brothers' first airplane flight, an early automobile assembly line, and immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in New York City. From the era of World War I and the 1920's come images of Liberty Loan rallies, suffragettes protesting in front of the White House, and the construction of the Empire State Building. Views of the Great Depression and New Deal include the effect of the Dust Bowl, public works projects, and portraits of personalities such as President Franklin Roosevelt, aviatrix Amelia Earhart, and actor Orson Welles.

World War II saw a tremendous growth in the numbers of photographs taken by the government. The exhibit features combat photography of the Normandy invasion, the battle of the Atlantic, and the war in the Pacific. Homefront images show the country's industrial mobilization. Postwar photographs illustrate the economic boom of the 1950's, the cold war, the Korean war, and the social ferment of the 1960's. The final sections of the exhibit features many photographs from the collections of NARA's Presidential libraries as well as images of the Vietnam war and spaceflight photography from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Also showcased in the exhibition are eight portfolios of noted photographers, well represented in the holding of the National Archives. Among their works are images so famous that they are permanently etched in our minds and many have become interchangeable with the event or place itself. Other images are little known, some never having been publicly displayed before. The portfolios are of:

  • Lewis Wicks Hine (1874-1940) whose famous photographs of children became an instrument of social reform;

  • George W. Ackerman (1884-1962) whose 40-year career at the Department of Agriculture yielded more than 50,000 photographs of rural America;

  • Walter Lubken (1881-1960), a photographer for the U.S. Reclamation Service who documented technological and social advances in the west during the early 20th century;

  • Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the War Relocation Authority, the Office of War. Information, and the State Department, whose photographs became synonymous with the Great Depression;

  • Charles Fenno Jacobs (1904-1975) who became part of Edward Steichen's Naval Aviation Photographic Unit in World War II that documented the aviation activities of the U.S. Navy, including female factory workers in California, and life aboard the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey;

  • Ansel Adams (1902-1984), one of the most celebrated photographers of all time who photographed the American West for the Department of Interior;

  • Yoichi Okamoto (1915-1985), who began his government career in the Army's Signal Corps, then joined the United States Information Agency, and eventually served at White House photographer for President Lyndon Johnson.

  • Danny Lyon (1942-), one of the most creative documentary photographers of the late 20th century, photographed the Rio Grande Valley and the Chicano barrio of South El Paso, Texas, for the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project.

The exhibition also highlights a variety of documents that show how the Federal government used the images taken by its photographers over the course of the century. For example, one case describes the relationship between photography and social reform in the early twentieth century. Other cases present photography and censorship practices during World War II, the United States Information Agency's use of photography during the cold war, and EPA's short-lived but fascinating DOCUMERICA project.

Picturing the Century is made possible, in part, by the generous support of Eastman Kodak Company.


Lewis Hine (1874–1940)

For Lewis Wicks Hine the camera was both a research tool and an instrument of social reform. Born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Hine studied sociology at the University of Chicago and Columbia and New York Universities. He began his career in 1904, photographing immigrants arriving in the United States at Ellis Island in New York Harbor. In 1908, he became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). Over the next decade, Mr. Hine documented child labor in American industry to aid the NCLC's lobbying efforts to end the practice. Between 1906 and 1908, he was a freelance photographer for The Survey, a leading social reform magazine. In 1908, Hine photographed life in the steel-making section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the influential study, "The Pittsburgh Survey." During and after World War I, he documented American Red Cross relief work in Europe. In the 1920's and early 1930's, Hine made a series of "work portraits," which emphasized the human contribution to modern industry, and included photographs of the workers constructing New York City's Empire State Building. During the Great Depression, he again worked for the Red Cross, photographing drought relief in the American South, and for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), documenting life in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. He also served as chief photographer for the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) National Research Project, which studied changes in industry and their effect on employment.

The National Archives holds nearly 2,000 Hine photographs, including examples of his child labor and Red Cross photographs, his work portraits, and his WPA and TVA images.

George W. Ackerman (1884–1962)

During a nearly 40-year career with the Department of Agriculture, George W. Ackerman estimated that he took more than 50,000 photographs. Mr. Ackerman began working as a photographer for the Bureau of Plant Industry in 1910 at a salary of $900 a year. In 1917, he transferred to the Federal Extension Service, traveling around the country photographing rural life. His photographs appeared in many private and government agricultural publications, although they were not usually credited to him.

Today, many of Mr. Ackerman's photographs fill us with nostalgia for a simpler time, but this was not the photographer's intention. Instead, Ackerman was striving to show the improvements and progress that had come to the American farm in the 20th century. Rural life seen in his photographs is comfortable. Farmers are content and prosperous, facing the future with confidence. They use the latest laborsaving devices and techniques. They and their neatly dressed wives and children enjoy modern conveniences and social amenities. Even amidst the Great Depression, Ackerman's photographs continued in this optimistic vein, one that contrasts sharply with the grim images of rural poverty taken by other Federal photographers. He later recalled that he tried "to paint the rural scene as I saw it, modern and up-to-date in many respects."

George Ackerman's photographic prints and many of his original negatives can be found among the records of several Federal agricultural agencies, most notably the records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and of the Extension Service.

Walter Lubken (1881–1960)

From 1903 to 1917, Walter J. Lubken was an official photographer for the U.S. Reclamation Service (USRS). During these years, Mr. Lubken took thousands of photographs documenting the Reclamation Service's irrigation projects across the American West. He recorded the progress of construction projects, as well as USRS machinery and personnel. Mr. Lubken also photographed nearby towns and farms for a series of articles published by the agency to promote settlement on land reclaimed from the desert through irrigation. Traveling with his large camera and glass-plate negatives, he documented 25 projects in 17 Western States. After leaving the USRS in 1917, Mr. Lubken also left professional photography until the 1930's, when he photographed the building of Boulder Dam.

Mr. Lubken's photographs capture both engineering feats and everyday life in the early- 20th-century West. His optimistic images impress the viewer with the technological and social advances made by westerners. They highlight the progress made in formerly barren and isolated places and show that abundant opportunities awaited those willing to move west and work hard on reclaimed land.

The National Archives holds both Mr. Lubken's photographic prints and many of his original glass-plate negatives among the records of the Bureau of Reclamation. There are also scattered Lubken photographs among the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Forest Service.

Dorothea Lange (1895–1965)

Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Dorothea Lange announced her intention to become a photographer at the age of 18. After apprenticing with a photographer in New York City, she moved to San Francisco and in 1919 established her own studio. During the 1920's and early 1930's, Ms. Lange worked as a portrait photographer, usually for San Francisco's upper classes. Yearning to reach beyond the social boundaries of the wealthy, in 1932 Ms. Lange began chronicling the plight of San Francisco's urban unemployed. In 1933, she photographed the most famous of these images at the White Angel Jungle, a soup kitchen for San Francisco's jobless.

The photographs she took at the White Angel and elsewhere over the next few months changed the direction of her photography. In 1935, she accepted a position as a staff photographer with the Federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later renamed the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Her work for the RA/FSA took her to the South, where she documented small towns, the lives of tenant farmers, and experimental agricultural communities. Returning to the West, she focused on the lives of migrant workers. In 1940, she was hired by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) to produce pictures for a series of community studies in California and Arizona. During World War II, Ms. Lange photographed the internment of Japanese Americans for the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California for the Office of War Information (OWI). After the war, despite ill health, she photographed the founding of the United Nations for the State Department and completed several assignments for Life magazine in the United States and around the world.

Dorothea Lange's photographs in the National Archives include prints and negatives of her work for the BAE as well as prints and original negatives of her work for the WRA. In addition, there are a small number of prints from her FSA and OWI assignments, the bulk of which are now held by the Library of Congress and other repositories.

Charles Fenno Jacobs (1904–1975)

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, famed photographer Edward Steichen recruited Charles Fenno Jacobs to join his Naval Aviation Photographic Unit. The U.S. Navy had established this special group to document and publicize its aviation activities and allowed Steichen to recruit the most talented photographers he could find. By 1941, Jacobs had already established a reputation as a photographer, having worked for Life, Fortune, and U.S. Camera magazines and briefly for the Farm Security Administration.

Mr. Jacobs, like the other photographers in the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, followed Mr. Steichen's advice to concentrate on the human side of war. He photographed aircraft workers in California, capturing the then-novel sight of female factory workers. On another assignment, he photographed life aboard the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, shooting the crew off as well as on duty. His images capture the earnestness of young aviation cadets, the humiliation of a Japanese prisoner of war, and melancholy scenes of Navy pilots on leave with their dates.

When the war ended, Mr. Jacobs and two of his colleagues, still dressed in uniform, walked into the offices of Fortune and boldly proposed that the magazine hire them to cover different parts of the world. The magazine agreed, and Mr. Jacobs was assigned to cover Europe in the immediate post-war years.

Prints of Fenno Jacobs' photographs and many of his original negatives are found in the National Archives among the General Records of the United States Navy, 1789–1946.

Ansel Adams (1902–1984)

Ansel Adams is one of the most celebrated photographers of all time. His images of the American landscape, and especially those of the American West, are familiar to millions. Born and raised in San Francisco, Mr. Adams studied music as a youth with the hope of becoming a concert pianist. At the age of 14, while on a family vacation, he took his first snapshots of Yosemite National Park. From that time on, Adams was captivated by the idea of recording nature on film. In his twenties, he abandoned his musical ambitions for a career in photography, working as a portrait and commercial photographer. By the 1930's, he began to achieve success for his visionary yet highly detailed photographs of western landscapes, especially those taken in Yosemite National Park. Over the next decades, Mr. Adams continued to work as a photographer, staging exhibitions and writing several important books on photographic technique. He also became a champion of the conservation movement in the United States, speaking out for environmental concerns and serving on the board of directors of the Sierra Club. Today, Ansel Adams's photographs remain immensely popular, "conveying to millions, a vision of an ideal America where nature's grand scenes and gentle details live on in undiminished glory."

In 1941, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes asked Mr. Adams to take photographs of the American West for a series of murals to be installed in the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, DC. The murals were never completed, but 226 of Adams's signed original prints were later added to the National Archives holdings and can be found among the Records of the National Park Service.

Yoichi Okamoto (1915–1985)

Born in Yonkers, New York, Yoichi Okamoto was educated at Colgate University. After serving as a still-and motion-picture photographer in the U.S. Army in World War II, he headed the Army's Signal Corps's photo office in occupied Austria and then worked briefly as a photographer for a newspaper in Syracuse, New York. Mr. Okamoto then joined the United States Information Agency (USIA) serving as staff photographer in USIA posts in Germany and Austria, and eventually as chief of the Visual Materials Branch in Washington, DC. Two of his photographs were chosen for the landmark 1955 Museum of Modern Art's photography exhibition "The Family of Man." In 1961, Mr. Okamoto accompanied Vice President Lyndon Johnson on an official visit to West Berlin. Mr. Johnson was so impressed with Mr. Okamoto's work that he was asked to join the Vice President on several other trips. When Mr. Johnson became President, he appointed Mr. Okamoto White House photographer. After President Johnson left office in 1969, Mr. Okamoto founded a custom photo studio in Washington, DC.

Yoichi Okamoto's photography reveals a gift for capturing his subject's personality. This is especially true of his work as White House photographer, where he gained unprecedented access to Lyndon Johnson. Mr. Okamoto was able to anticipate the President's changeable moods, and his candid images tell us much about LBJ's personal political style. His goal, he told President Johnson, was not just to take portraits, but "to hang around and try to document history in the making." In his other government work, Mr. Okamoto demonstrated a strong appreciation for setting and context. His images of Washington, DC, and Munich, Germany, for example, show us the joys and irritations of urban life.

Yoichi Okamoto's photography is well represented in the holdings of the National Archives. In addition to his White House photographs that are preserved at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, his work as a USIA staff member, as well as some of his later freelance photographs, are among USIA photographic files at the National Archives at College Park. In 1973, Mr. Okamoto completed several assignments for the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project. These photographs and some of his letters are also found in the National Archives.

Danny Lyon (1942– )

Danny Lyon is one of the most creative documentary photographers of the late 20th century. Mr. Lyon grew up in New York City and became interested in photography at the age of 17. He studied history at the University of Chicago and joined the civil rights movement in 1962, becoming staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). His SNCC photographs are powerful, behind-the-scenes views of the struggle for racial equality, depicting the courage and idealism of those in the movement, as well as the hatred and violence of segregationists. During the next three decades, Mr. Lyon's photography focused on the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. He photographed motorcycle gang members, inmates in Texas penitentiaries, and demolition derby drivers. His images document the urban renewal of Lower Manhattan, a revolution in Haiti, and life in inner-city Brooklyn. In 1969, Mr. Lyon began making films, that include Llanito, Little Boy, and Willie.

Mr. Lyon worked sporadically for the Federal government as a photographer from 1972 through 1974, completing several assignments for the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project. In 1972 and 1973, he photographed the Rio Grande Valley and the Chicano barrio of South El Paso, Texas, as well as Galveston, and Houston, Texas. In 1974, he photographed the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. His images from these assignments mirror the subjects of his non-governmental work. They depict ethnic neighborhoods under attack by outside forces, including Federally driven policies such as urban renewal. His photographs seek to preserve and record these communities before they were destroyed. That Mr. Lyon felt free to criticize the Federal government, even though he was a Federal employee, says a great deal about the freedom given to DOCUMERICA photographers.

Danny Lyon's original 35mm color slides from the DOCUMERICA project and supporting written materials, are preserved at the National Archives among the records of the Environmental Protection Agency.


Picturing the Century:
One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives

By Bruce I. Bustard

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island . . . the Wright Brothers’ first flight . . . building the Empire State Building . . . a Depression-era soup line . . . Omaha Beach . . . the mushroom cloud . . . Lyndon Johnson taking the Presidential oath . . . a young marine in Da Nang . . . footprints on the Moon . . . war in the Persian Gulf . . .

Old photographs are time machines. They allow us to look back in history, freeze a moment in time, and imagine ourselves as part of the past. Through historic photographs we can see how famous and ordinary folk appeared in both posed and unguarded moments. We can relive great events and everyday life in exquisite detail. We can learn how people dressed and carried themselves and sometimes judge their moods. Studying photographs helps us imagine what it was like when the first airplane took off, when a landing craft ramp fell open on D day, or when the first man stepped onto the Moon.

The events of the twentieth century have been captured in billions of photographs. Some are so familiar that they have come to stand for an event in its entirety. Others surprise us with their beauty, power, or original point of view. To commemorate the twentieth century, a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) exhibition presents a selection of photographs from its holdings. “Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives” showcases NARA’s photographic riches and illustrates the changes in American society over the last hundred years. It also explores the role of federal government photography in the United States, illustrates the changes in American society over the last century, showcases some of NARA’s photographic riches, and highlights the work of outstanding and well-known photographers such as Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, and Ansel Adams.

NARA is uniquely suited to mount such a visual history. Its still photography holdings are enormous and varied; in the Washington, D.C., area alone they consist of eight million photographs in the still picture stacks, nine million aerial photographs among cartographic records, and thousands of photos interfiled with textual records. In addition, there are millions of photographs in NARA’s presidential libraries and thousands more among the records of NARA’s regional records services facilities.

The exhibit’s chronological sections depict many of the momentous events of the century as well as larger social trends. The initial section on the early twentieth century, for example, includes historic photographs of the Wright Brothers’ first airplane flight, an early automobile assembly line, and immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in New York City. From the era of World War I and the 1920s come images of Liberty Loan rallies, “suffragettes” protesting in front of the White House, and the construction of the Empire State Building. Views of the Great Depression and New Deal include the effect of the Dust Bowl, public works projects, and portraits of personalities such as President Franklin Roosevelt, aviatrix Amelia Earhart, and actor Orson Welles.

World War II saw a tremendous growth in the numbers of photographs taken by the government. The exhibit features combat photography of the Normandy invasion, the battle of the Atlantic, and the war in the Pacific. Homefront images show the country’s industrial mobilization. Postwar photographs illustrate the economic boom of the 1950s, the cold war, the Korean war, and the social ferment of the 1960s. The final sections of the exhibit features many photographs from the collections of NARA’s presidential libraries as well as images of the Vietnam war and spaceflight photography from National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Interspersed throughout the chronological sections are eight “portfolios,” which contain photographs taken by talented photographers well represented in NARA’s holdings. The portfolios feature some of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century, but they also invite the visitor to discover the works of lesser known, but exceptional individuals employed by the federal government. Famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams, for example, worked for the Department of the Interior for only a few months, taking photographs of the American West, especially the National Parks. George W. Ackerman, worked for the Department of Agriculture for nearly forty years, capturing images of rural life from the late teens into the 1950s. Other portfolios focus on Lewis Hine, whose child labor photographs helped push for legislation restricting the employment of young people; Dorothea Lange, renowned photographic chronicler of the America’s hard times during the Great Depression; Fenno Jacobs, who detailed navy life in the South Pacific during World War II; Yoichi Okamoto, White House photographer during the Johnson administration; and Danny Lyon, who worked briefly for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) DOCUMERICA photographic project in the early and mid-1970s.

In several cases throughout the gallery, “Picturing the Century” displays a variety of documents illustrating how the federal government used the images taken by its photographers over the course of the century. For example, one case describes the relationship between photography and social reform in the early twentieth century. Other cases present photography and censorship practices during World War II, the United States Information Agency’s use of photography during the cold war, and EPA’s short-lived but fascinating DOCUMERICA project.

“Picturing the Century” is displayed in the Circular Gallery of the National Archives Building until July 4, 2001. In early 2000 new selections will replace most of the photographs displayed. The exhibit catalog has been published by the National Archives and Records Administration and the University of Washington Press and sells for $19.95.


"Picturing the Century: Part II" Opens at the National Archives

Washington, DC. . . On Friday, March 24, 2000, the National Archives and Records Administration opened Part II of "Picturing the Century: 100 Years of Photography from the National Archives" in the Circular Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The new version of the show features 130 new black and white and color selections from the National Archives collection of more than 9 million images. This major exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will be on display through July 4, 2001. The National Archives Building is located on Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, Washington, DC.

Arranged chronologically, these photographs depict American life throughout the 20th century. There are pictures of milestone events such as the construction of the Empire State Building, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the first man on the moon, but the exhibit also highlights the social changes that effected the everyday life of ordinary people over of the last century. Faces of Americans young and old, at work and at play, weave a rich tapestry that tells stories of diversity, ingenuity, creativity, and perseverance. These images include:

  • immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1908;
  • women railroad workers posing with their sledgehammers during World War I;
  • doctors in Creston, Iowa performing an operation in 1924;
  • a South Dakota farmer enduring a Dust Bowl storm;
  • families gathering around their radios and later, their television sets.

"Picturing the Century" features eight portfolios of noted photographers, well represented in the holdings of the National Archives. Among their works are images so famous that they are permanently etched in our minds and many have become interchangeable with the event or place itself. Other images are little known, some never having been publicly displayed before. The portfolios photographers are:

  • Lewis Wicks Hine (1874-1940) whose famous photographs of children became an instrument of social reform. Included are heartbreaking photographs of a six year old field worker and a young fiddler on the streets of Belgrade during World War I.
  • George W. Ackerman (1884-1962) whose 40-year career at the Department of Agriculture yielded more than 50,000 photographs of rural America. Ackerman took photographs such as farm women showing off their new hats and a Connecticut father and his three sons doing their morning chores.
  • Walter Lubken (1881-1960), a photographer for the U.S. Reclamation Service who documented technological and social progress in the west during the early 20th century. Lubken's photos of street scenes, homesteaders, and irrigation project workers vividly capture life in the early 20th century American West.
  • Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), whose photographs became synonymous with the Great Depression is represented by images of the unemployed and migratory farm workers. Also on display are two of Lange's photographs taken for the War Relocation Authority that show the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
  • Charles Fenno Jacobs (1904-1975) who became part of Edward Steichen's Naval Aviation Photographic Unit in World War II that documented the aviation activities of the U.S. Navy, including female factory workers in California, and life aboard the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey.
  • Ansel Adams (1902-1984), one of the most celebrated photographers of all time who photographed the American West for the Department of Interior. The second half of "Picturing the Century" features four new original, signed Ansel Adams photographs, including a 1941 portrait of a Navajo girl from Canyon de Chelle, Arizona, and a view of the Grand Canyon taken from the South Rim in 1941.
  • Yoichi Okamoto (1915-1985), served at White House photographer for President Lyndon Johnson. His photographs of Johnson, his advisors, and visitors still serve as models for White House photographers.
  • Danny Lyon (1942-), one of the most creative documentary photographers of the late 20th century, photographed the Rio Grande Valley and the Chicano barrio of South El Paso, Texas, for the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project.

Other photographs in the exhibition include Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir in Yosemite National Park; a panoramic view of the National Mall from the Washington Monument in 1916; World War I doughboys fighting in France; workers packing oysters in Bivalve, New Jersey in 1926; Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill relaxing at Roosevelt's Presidential retreat in 1943; and Jackie Kennedy playing with young John F. Kennedy, Jr. in 1962.

A catalogue of the exhibition, published in conjunction with the University of Washington Press, is available for $19.95 in the National Archives Museum shop.

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