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Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection

Prints and Photographs Division

Collection digitized? All of the black-and-white negatives and the 1,600 color transparencies in the collection are available in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. (The same images are presented on the Library of Congress American Memory site.) Selected images are included here to give a sample of the collection.
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Permissions and Credits | Related Collections | Bibliography | Selected Images from the Collection


The photographs of the Farm Security Administration (FSA)-Office of War Information (OWI), transferred to the Library of Congress beginning in 1944, form an extensive pictorial record of American life between 1935 and 1944. This U.S. government photography project was headed by Roy E. Stryker, formerly an economics instructor at Columbia University, and engaged such photographers as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Gordon Parks, John Vachon, and Carl Mydans. The project initially documented the Resettlement Administration's cash loans to individual farmers, and the agency's construction of planned suburban communities. The second stage focused on the lives of sharecroppers in the South and of migratory agricultural workers in the midwestern and western states. As the scope of the project expanded, the photographers turned to recording rural and urban conditions throughout the United States and mobilization efforts for World War II.

The collection encompasses the approximately 77,000 images made by photographers working in Stryker's unit as it existed in a succession of government agencies: the Resettlement Administration (RA, 1935-1937), the Farm Security Administration (FSA, 1937-1942), and the Office of War Information (OWI, 1942-1944). In addition, the collection includes photographs produced by other government agencies (e.g., the Office of Emergency Management) and collected from various non-government sources. In total, the collection consists of approximately 171,000 black-and-white film negatives, 107,000 black-and-white photographic prints, and 1,610 color transparencies.



The core of the FSA-OWI Collection consists of approximately 171,000 black-and-white negatives, encompassing both negatives that were printed for FSA-OWI use and those that were not printed at the time ("killed" negatives). The negatives have been digitized and cataloged, and are available via World Wide Web, through the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. (The same images and records are also available through a Library of Congress American Memory site.) Through the web site, it is possible for researchers to see for the first time images that were not made available during the years of the FSA-OWI photographic unit's operation and that are not represented by corresponding photographic prints (the portion of the collection that has been available to the public for several decades at the Library of Congress). Although the unprinted negatives are often simply alternate views of images that were printed, by viewing both printed and unprinted negatives, researchers may be able to glean additional visual information. The web site also offers a feature that enables users to browse the negatives by their "call numbers." The resulting display mimics a printed "contact sheet," often used by photographers to make an initial examination of exposed negatives. Viewing the images in this way enables users to view related printed and unprinted negatives. It may also offer insight on photographers' working methods and on the operating procedures of the FSA-OWI photographic unit.

Since caption information was lacking for many of the images that were not selected for printing, only a very limited number of the "killed" negatives are identified with a title in their accompanying catalog records. Most simply have "Untitled" as a title. It may be possible to identify these untitled images by searching for images that have neighboring call numbers, are similar in appearance, and have titles.

The FSA-OWI negatives are arranged in series based on issuing agency, film type, and whether the negative is an original or a copy negative. The letters and numbers used in the prefix of the "reproduction number" for each image encodes this information. For example, the prefix "LC-USF33" designates: Farm Security Administration 35 millimeter original film negative. The negatives are being digitized and cataloged series by series. Digitized images and accompanying catalog records will be added to the web site in stages as the work is completed.


The photographic prints were made, usually by FSA-OWI photo laboratory staff, from those negatives that Roy Stryker and the photographers selected as suitable for printing. The prints were mounted on cardboard mounts and captions were applied to the mounts. The captions include the location and date of the photograph, the photographer's name, descriptive information, and, a negative number. During the FSA-OWI years, the mounted photographs were kept in file cabinets, organized roughly by state and subject. As the file grew, it became increasingly difficult for FSA and OWI staff to use. The OWI hired archivist Paul Vanderbilt to organize the prints for easier access. Vanderbilt recognized that access needs differed--some researchers were interested in entire photo "stories," taken in particular places or by particular photographers, while others sought individual images that showed particular subjects. Therefore, he devised two different arrangements, the LOTs and the FSA-OWI Reading Room File, which he implemented after being hired by the Library of Congress about the time the FSA-OWI Collection was transferred to the Library in 1944.

  • Photographic Prints in LOTs

    Vanderbilt described a LOT as "a set of prints which it is desired to keep together ... usually because it is a 'story' conceived and photographed as an interpretive unit." Often images from separate assignments are combined. A LOT generally consists of images with the same subject matter or from a specific geographic region. LOTs vary greatly in size from a few photographs to over one hundred photographs. For example, LOT 44 consists of 197 images by John Collier of facilities and activities at the Seabrook Farm in Bridgeport, New Jersey, as well as a Farm Security Administration camp and Fourth of July celebrations. LOT 267 contains 14 photographs by both Arthur Rothstein and Russell Lee of a tourist attraction in Wisconsin. Additional examples of LOTs can be found on the American Memory web site, in Documenting America: Photographers on Assignment.

    The majority of the LOTs are available only on microfilm. Vanderbilt arranged to have about 1,800 LOTs microfilmed, after which he re-organized the prints to form the FSA-OWI Reading Room File described below. About 400 LOTs were not microfilmed. These are kept in storage areas, and may be used by researchers in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room.

    Access to the LOTs by photographer, specific geographic location, and by broad subject headings is afforded by catalog records in the Divisional Card Catalog. Information in the LOT catalog records generally includes the place, date, photographer, agency for which the images were made, and a summary of the visual subject matter. Printed listings of the LOTs by photographer and by state are also available. The listings include information given on the catalog cards and cite the microfilm reel, if any, on which the LOT is found.

    Copies of the microfilmed LOTs can be purchased through the Library's Photoduplication Service. Individual reels may be ordered.

    Researchers who do not have access to the microfilmed LOTs will eventually be able to reconstitute them online, as the Prints and Photographs Division is in the process of recording in the catalog records for the negatives the LOT numbers in which corresponding printed images can be found.

  • FSA-OWI Reading Room File

    After they were microfilmed as LOTs, approximately 88,000 of the original black-and-white photographic prints (consisting of 77,000 images produced by photographers under Roy Stryker's direction, about 11,000 of the prints acquired from other sources, and a few photographs that were not included in the microfilmed LOTs) were re-organized by broad geographic regions (northeastern states, southern states, etc.) and subdivided by numbered subject categories, in accordance with a classification scheme devised by Paul Vanderbilt. Photographic prints produced under the auspices of FSA were interfiled with those produced by the OWI. The prints are available in this classified arrangement in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room. Stamped on the back of each mounted print is the letter designating the geographic region in which the print is filed and the classification number that represents the subject matter of the image. Prints that were originally part of a LOT also have their LOT number stamped on the back of the mount, allowing researchers to trace an image back to the photographic assignment with which it was associated. (Occasionally, photographic prints are found in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room file that were not included in any LOT.)

    The 88,000 photographs in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room file have been published as a microfiche set, entitled America 1935-1946, (Chadwyck-Healey, Inc., 1101 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314; telephone: 800-752-0515 or 703-683- 4890). The images on the microfiche are in the same geographic region/subject arrangement as in the Reading Room File. Each of the six major geographic regions represented may be purchased separately. The microfiche publication includes an index by FSA-OWI subject categories. The set may be available at major research and public libraries, where patrons can use it for research and selection purposes.


The 1,610 color Kodachrome transparencies are available through the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. (The same images and catalog records are presented on a Library of Congress American Memory site.)


The written records of the FSA/OWI--including office files, caption lists, supplementary files, and scrapbooks--are also housed in the Prints and Photographs Division (LOT 12024). These records have been copied onto 23 reels of microfilm available from the Library's Photoduplication Service (order number P&P 12024). Purchasers of the film will receive the printed Guide to Textual Records in the Library of Congress at no extra charge. For more information, contact the Photoduplication Service, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C 20540-5230.

(Note: The personal papers of Roy Stryker are held by the University of Louisville Photographic Archives. Principally correspondence with the photographers (including "shooting scripts" and "gossip sheets"), the papers also contain biographical information about Stryker, records from his other photographic projects, and materials relating to the use of FSA-OWI photographs in articles, books, and exhibitions. The papers span the years 1887 to 1972, bulking between 1924 and 1962. A microfilm of these papers was published by Microfilming Corporation of America in 1982, along with a guide and correspondence index prepared by David Horvath. Both the microfilm set and the accompanying guide/index are available for reference use in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room.)


Copies of all FSA-OWI photographs may be ordered through the Library's Photoduplication Service. Orders for copies must be accompanied by reproduction numbers for the desired images. Reproduction numbers for black-and-white negatives and color transparencies appear in the online catalog records in the field labeled "Reproduction number." Reproduction numbers (negative numbers) for black-and-white prints generally appear on the photo mounts. Reproduction numbers are also provided in the Chadwyck-Healey microfiche set, in the publications listed in the bibliography below, and in the FSA/OWI microfilm. Patrons using the FSA/OWI microfilm should be aware that the reproduction numbers that appear in the microfilm are incomplete. An explanation of how to formulate a complete negative number on the basis of information given in the microfilm is available.

If reproduction numbers are not known, the Division's reference staff will search for up to ten reproduction numbers in reply to written requests. Such inquiries should include: (1) a photocopy of the desired image, (2) caption, and (3) author and full title of the publication and the page on which the image appeared. Once the reproduction numbers have been identified, photographic prints or transparencies can be ordered directly from the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service, Washington, D.C. 20540-5230. Order forms, price, and order instructions will be provided on request.

NOTE: A project designed to preserve the original FSA-OWI negatives began in 1996. Segments of the negative collection will be temporarily unavailable for photoduplication orders during the course of this project.


All color transparencies and most black-and-white photographs in the FSA-OWI collection are considered to be in the public domain and can be reproduced and published without restriction. However, the FSA occasionally and the OWI frequently obtained photographs from other sources. All known information about the source of the images is found in the labels on the photographs. Patrons are advised to check for copyright before publishing or otherwise distributing photographs credited to other sources. Privacy and publicity rights may also apply. When images are reproduced in a publication, the Library requests that the reproduction number be published with the credit, as in the following example: "Library of Congress, LC- USF34-4052."


  • The Walker Evans Archive, Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York, NY) holds Evans' personal archive, including his negatives, color transparencies, personal papers, library, and collections.
  • Dorothea Lange Collection, The Oakland Museum, (Oakland, CA) holds photographs made during all phases of Lange's career, including some made during her RA/FSA period that are not found in Library of Congress holdings.
  • Still Picture unit, National Archives, (College Park, MD) holds photographs made or gathered by the Office of War Information (Record Group 208), primarily taken by photographers who did not work in Stryker's photo unit, and emphasizing non-U.S. operations and personnel. The Still Picture Branch also holds photographs made by photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee for government agencies other than the FSA or the OWI.
  • Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution , (Washington, D.C.) holds transcribed interviews with several FSA/OWI photographers and staff, as well as microfilms of personal papers lent by Roy Stryker and others.
  • The Roy Stryker Papers, University of Louisville Photographic Archives, (Louisville, KY), in addition to holding the personal papers of Roy Stryker (available on microfilm), also holds images from the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey documentary photo project, on which Roy Stryker and several of the FSA/OWI photographers worked, 1943-1950.


FSA-OWI photographs have been published in hundreds of books and articles. Photographers of the Farm Security Administration: An Annotated Bibliography, 1930-1980, by Penelope Dixon (Garland Publishing, Inc., 1983) [LC call number Z7136.D63D59 1983], provides an extensive list of books and articles about the FSA photographers or featuring FSA photographs. An extensive bibliography and list of related web sites is available on the web site for the FSA/OWI Collection. Documenting America, edited by Carl Fleischhauer and Beverly Brannan (University of California Press, 1988) [LC call number E8O6.D616 1988], provides a thorough overview of the collection and its organization and includes an extensive bibliography.

A collection of FSA-OWI related research materials is available in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room. It includes materials that influenced the work of the project, as well as publications influenced by it, in turn. Biographies of the photographers can be found here, as well as studies of project coverage of regions and subjects.

The following select list of publications includes those that reproduce images from the FSA/OWI Collection, along with the reproduction numbers needed for ordering photographic copies:

Brannan, Beverly W. and David Horvath, ed. A Kentucky Album. Lexington, Ky.: University of Kentucky, 1986. [LC call number F456.K35 1986]

Carlebach, Michael and Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. Farm Security Administration Photographs of Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993. [LC call number F312.C37 1993]

Daniel, Pete, et al. Official Images: New Deal Photography. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987. [LC call number TR820.5.O33 1987]

Doty, C. Stewart. Acadian Hard Times: the Farm Security Administration in Maine's St. John Valley, 1940-1943. Orono, Me.: University of Maine Press, 1991. [LC call number HD1775.M2D67 1991].

Fleischhauer, Carl, and Beverly Brannan, ed. Documenting America. Berkeley, Ca.: University of California Press, 1988. [LC call number E806.D616 1988]

Ganzel, Bill. Dust Bowl Descent. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. [FSA photography in the Great Plains region.] [LC call number TR820.5.G36 1984]

Hastings, Scott E., Jr. and Elsie R. Hastings. Up in the Morning Early: Vermont Farm Families in the Thirties. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1992. [LC call number F54.H38 1992]

Hurley, F. Jack. Marion Post Wolcott: A Photographic Journey. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1989. [LC call number TR140.W64H87]

Hurley, F. Jack. Russell Lee: Photographer. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Morgan & Morgan, 1978. [LC call number TR820.5.L42]

Just Before the War: Urban America from 1935 to 1941 as seen by Photographers of the Farm Security Administration. N.Y.: October House, 1968. [LC call number E169.J86]

Lange, Dorothea. Dorothea Lange: Farm Security Administration Photographs, 1935-1939, from the Library of Congress. Glencoe, Ill.: Text-Fiche Press, 198O. [2 vols. with 17 fiche containing 1,354 photographs.] [LC call number HN57.L32 ]

Lee, Russell. FSA Photographs of Chamisal and Penasco, New Mexico. Edited by William Wroth. Santa Fe, N.M.: Ancient City Press, 1985. [LC call number F804.C46L43 1985]

O'Neal, Hank. A Vision Shared: a Classic Portrait of America and Its People, 1935-1943. N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1976. [LC call number HN57.V54]

Partridge, Elizabeth, ed. Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994. [LC call number TR140.L3D67 1994]

Reid, Robert L., ed. Back Home Again: Indiana in the Farm Security Administration Photographs, 1935-1943. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1987. [LC call number F527.B33 1987]

Reid, Robert L. and Larry Viskochil, ed. Chicago and Downstate: Illinois as seen by the Farm Security Administration Photographers, 1935-1943. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Historical Society, 1989. [LC call number F548.37.C523 1989]

Reid, Robert L., ed. Picturing Minnesota, 1936-1943: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1989. [LC call number F607.P53 1989]

Reid, Robert L. Picturing Texas: The FSA-OWI Photographers in the Lone Star State, 1936-1943. Austin, Tex.: Texas State Historical Association, 1994. [LC call number: TR820.5.R45 1994]

Russell, Herbert K. A Southern Illinois Album: Farm Security Administration Photographs, 1936-1943. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990. [LC call number F542.R87 1990]

Schulz, Constance, ed. A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1992. [F270.S38 1991]

Stryker, Roy E. and Nancy C. Wood. In This Proud Land: America, 1935-1943, as seen in the FSA Photographs. N.Y.: Galahad Books, 1973. [LC call number TR820.5.S87]

------------ Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1975. [LC call number TR820.5.S87 1975]

U.S. Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division. Walker Evans: Photographs for the Farm Security Administration, 1935-1938. Introduction by Jerald C. Maddox. N.Y.: Da Capo Press, 1973 [LC call number HN57.D22 1973]

------------ N.Y.: Da Capo Press, 1975. [LC call number HN57.U555 1975]

Weigle, Marta, ed. Women of New Mexico: Depression Era Images. Santa Fe, N.M.: Ancient City Press, 1993. [LC call number HQ1438.N55W66 1993]

Weigle, Marta. New Mexicans in Cameo and Camera: New Deal Documentation of Twentieth-Century Lives. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1985. [LC call number F801.N47 1985]

Wood, Nancy C. Heartland New Mexico: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration, 1935-1943. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1989. [LC call number F797.W66 1989]

Selected Images from the Collection

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