3 Mar 2013

The faces of the hard working farmers toiling the land after the devastation of the Great Depression


The faces of the hard working farmers toiling the land after the devastation of the Great Depression were captured in a pictorial history that tells the tale of the agricultural communities plagued by economic hardship in the 1940s. 
Stunning photographs show the quintessential Western community of Pie Town, New Mexico as seen through the camera lens of Russell Lee.
Mr Lee traveled to the area in October 1940 to capture images of farmers across the country for the Farm Security Administration, a division of the Department of Agriculture.
Describing the town as looking like a movie set out of the Old West, he got to work to document what he found in the small village. 
He followed the men as they worked the fields, the women as they cared for their children and struggled to put food on the table and the children who followed the example of perseverance and hard work modeled to them by their parents. 
Though poverty and lack of money is an ever present backdrop in the pictures, Mr Lee was also able to capture the incredible spirit of community, fellowship and camaraderie abundantly felt among the residents. 
'He showed how hard it all was. His pictures weren’t telling lies,' Paul Hendrickson wrote in a 2005 Smithsonian Magazine article about the Pie Town images.
'Yet his pictures of people ...almost made you forget the deprived living conditions, forgive them, because the sense of the other—the shared food and good times at all-day community church sings - was so powerfully rendered.'
He 'seemed to narrate the received American story of pluck and determination.'
The town earned its unusual name in the 1920s when it was settled by Texas transplant Clyde Norman, who had a fondness for baking.
He established the general store and would sell his baked creations to travelers - who dubbed the stopover spot Pie Town. 
As the town began to grow, in 1927 the townspeople applied for a Post Office but the Postal Service scoffed when they entered the name on their registration form. 
Suggesting that the New Mexico residents opt for a more traditional title, the townsfolk insisted that their town was Pie Town. 
Pie Town is located 160 miles Southwest of Albuquerque.
 
Downtown: The General Merchandise store on Main Street. When photograph Russell Lee arrived in the New Mexico community he said it looked like a movie set out of a Western
 

American Gothic: Homesteaders Jim Norris and his wife pose in front of their field. Their faces show the impact of toiling under the hot southwest sun and working the land  
Ties that bond: Jack Whinery, his wife and his five children pose for a family photograph in October 1940
 

Faces of the future: The children of Pie Town, some living in extreme poverty and unable to afford shoes, sing rousingly during a performance 
True Grit: The photographer captured the sun scorched skin of Jim Norris, a homesteader in Pie Town, who worked the New Mexico land after the Great Depression 
A mighty fortress: Congregants fellowship in front on the wooden church 
Come one, come all: A bull rider tries to stay mounted for a ride at the Pie Town rodeo as part of the New Mexico Fair 
Auction: Men round up their cattle for a sale
 

Our country: Mrs Bill Stagg shows off her artwork, a quilt bearing the names of the 50 United States of America 
Namesake: The townsfolk gather to enjoy what the community is most known for, a piece of pie 
Heritage: A father shows his little girl to enjoy the fruits of their hard work 
Our father: Gentlemen remove their hats as they prepare to say grace before a town barbeque 
Gather round: The men of Pie Town crouch down to chat as they enjoy their food at the community gathering
 

Fill-er-up: The filling station and garage in Pie Town was a gathering place for the residents in need of repairs for their farm eqiupment

 

Fresh produce: Residents gather to buy their share of fruit and vegetables at the fruit wagon at the New Mexico Fair 

Crop: Bill Stagg, an area homesteader, with his pinto beans harvest
 
Bring in the harvest: Two horses pull the plough has a farmer harvests his corn field 
Garden: Mr. Leatherman, homesteader, ties up cauliflower plants in his patch 

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