Book Review: Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 01

A poor look at the Hawkeye State

I think this is only worth buying if you want some historical perspective on Iowa from 1936 or if, like me, you collect books of FSA photos. The sixty-seven photos are presented one on every right-hand page in a very amateurish looking landscape paperback.

Most of the photos capture the agricultural community during the Depression years, either working on the land or relaxing with their families at home. Some show the poverty and hardships that ordinary folk had to endure. There are eleven photos of Dubuque and one each of some other towns. Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee and John Vachon took most of photos with one each from Marion Post Wolcott and Paul Carter.

Most left-hand pages have a short caption and quotes from named individuals or newspaper cuttings about political and economic events of the times. The problem with the book is the very tacky way it's produced from its complete lack of any design to the pages, the dull typography on the cover, the various typefaces used throughout the pages to the uneven reproduction of the photos. Other books I have of the wonderful FSA photos devoted to one State show what can be done. 'Unknown Iowa' I feel is going to remain just that.

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 02
A typical FSA photo: full of interesting detail. Grundy Center, 1939.

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 03

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 04
Homer Sharer and his family, Estherville, 1936.

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 05

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Des Moines, 1940.

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 08
Main Street, Dubuque, 1940.

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Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 11
Blackhawk County, 1939.

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Making a quilt for a needy family, Scranton, 1940.

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Unknown Iowa: Farm Security photos, 1936-1941 - 15
Monona County, 1940.

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