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Farm Security Administration Photographs

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 1 Sep 2020

Biographical History

The Resettlement Administration (RA) was a federal agency created in 1935, under the auspices of the United States Department of Agriculture, in response to poverty resulting from the Great Depression. It built relief camps for migratory workers, particularly in California, and relocated struggling urban and rural families to new communities planned and built by the federal government, such as Greenbelt, Maryland. The RA was controversial within the US Congress, where it was perceived as socialist or even Communist, and in 1936 the US Supreme Court ruled its town-building program unconstitutional (Franklin Township v. Tugwell, 1936). In 1937 the RA was folded into the new Farm Security Administration (FSA) which was intended to promote rural rehabilitation more generally. Among other things, the FSA had a small but highly influential photography program that vividly portrayed the challenges of rural poverty, and created an indelible image of the Depression in the United States. Many notable photographers produced work for the FSA, including Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, and Dorothea Lange.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Farm Security Administration Photographs contains photographs taken in agricultural areas of the United States between the mid-1930s and mid-1940s. The photographs were taken on behalf of the Resettlement Administration (RA) and the Farm Security Administration (FSA), and include several by notable photojournalists: six by Dorothea Lange, twelve by Arthur Rothstein, six by Russell Lee, six by John Vachon, and one by Carl Mydans. Others are attributed only to Acme News Pictures. All photographs have an NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association) hand-stamp on the back; many also have FSA or RA hand-stamps. All photographs are dated and most have captions, either handwritten or typed. An index to photographers appears at the end of this finding aid.

Images include houses, gardens, farms, and farm equipment, as well as people -- men, women, and children -- at home, at work in fields and gardens, at agricultural meetings, in new "resettlement" houses, and so on. Several depict migrant workers (cherry pickers in Michigan and pea pickers in California). Identified events include the Imperial Valley Pea Strike and groundbreaking for the planned town of Greenbelt, Maryland. Thirteen states are represented, though California is the most frequent.

Arrangement of the Collection

Alphabetical by state.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advance notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Lange, Dorothea.
Lee, Russell, 1903-1986.
Mydans, Carl.
Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985.
Vachon, John, 1914-1975.

Corporate Bodies

United States. -- Farm Security Administration.
United States. -- Resettlement Administration.


Depressions -- 1929.
Documentary photography -- United States.
Farmers -- United States.
Migrant labor -- United States.
Migration, Internal -- United States.
Photographers -- United States.


United States -- History -- 1933-1945.

Genres and Forms


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Farm Security Administration Photographs,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 2020.

Table of Contents


Index to photographers


Index to photographers

All identified photographers are listed here, with the locations where their photos may be found in the collection.