Arthur Rothstein was hand picked by Director Roy Stryker to be one of the original photographers for the Historical Section of the Resettlement Administration (later the Farm Security Administration/FSA). The unit was birthed to be an explainer for agriculture projects that benefited the agrarian sectors of Depression-ravish America. Rothstein’s “eye” was excellent, his technical skills first rate and he always came back with the goods and then some.
Why doesn’t he get the attention of Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans, or, even, Russell Lee?
Was it the cow skull “controversy?”
For me this “controversy has always seemed,well… overblown. He moved the skull several times and then, finally, settled on the one we all know.
Old time professional migratory laborer camping on the outskirts of Perryton; Texas at opening of wheat harvest. With his wife and growing family; he has been on the road since marriage; thirteen years ago. Migrations include ranch land in Texas; cotton and wheat in Texas; cotton and timber in New Mexico; peas and potatoes in Idaho; wheat in Colorado; hops and apples in Yakima Valley; Washington; cotton in Arizona. He wants to buy a little place in Idaho
Extended Caption: California at Last: Example of self-resettlement in California. Oklahoma farm family on highway between Blythe and Indio. Forced by the drought of 1936 to abandon their farm, they set out with their children to drive to California. Picking cotton in Arizona for a day or two at a time gave them enough for food and gas to continue. On this day, they were within a day’s travel of their destination, Bakersfield, California. Their car had broken down en route and was abandoned.
Ten Children, March 1937, by Dorothea Lange,
for the RA (courtesy of OMCA)
Text by Bruce Berman
Migrants looking for work goes back the very beginning of America, from the English/Europeans at Jamestown and beyond. One could arguably say that “Native Americans” descended from migrants from China, coming across the Bering land bridge.
In Lange’s era, as the economic Depression of the 1930s deepened and the ecological disasters of drought and erosion progressed there was a massive infra-country migration, primarily from the Great Plains and Texas/Oklahoma, mostly heading west to California.
This migration was heavily documented by the FSA and by others.