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Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Written Records: Selected Documents


Introduction | Shooting Scripts | Caption Sheets | General Guidance | Research in the FSA/OWI Written Records | Related Resources

Introduction

The Farm Security Administration Historical Section (and the unit’s predecessor in the Resettlement Administration and successor in the Office of War Information) produced many written records in the course of the photography work it conducted on behalf of its parent agencies.  The written records that came to the Library of Congress are grouped in LOT 12024 (for more information on the written records, see: //www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/fsa/written.html).  The records have not been comprehensively digitized, but we offer sample documents here, including some of the most frequently requested items.

Researchers often request to see “shooting scripts"--outlines of intended photographic coverage.  We include here all the documents that we found referred to as "shooting scripts," as well as other documents that lay out proposed photographic coverage.  Secondary sources mentioning the shooting scripts sometimes imply that Roy Stryker, the head of the FSA photo unit, routinely devised the scripts, but the variety of scripts found in the written records suggest that Stryker often encouraged others to develop the scripts. For suggestions on other sources of shooting scripts, see "Related Resources," below.

Photographers prepared photo captions that headquarters staff subsequently edited. The written records contain many--but by no means all--of the sheets of captions for the negatives taken by members of the photographic unit. Folders for "general captions," contain text that provided the background or summary of an assignment. Included below are the general captions associated with LOTs 344 and 345, the group of photographs by Dorothea Lange in which the well-known "Migrant Mother" series appears, although Lange's comments on those particular photographs are sparing, at best.

Additional documents convey the general guidance Stryker provided to photographers and FSA field staff and offer a glimpse of how the photographic unit operated.

In some cases, the author or date of documents in the written records went unrecorded. Many of the documents are carbon copies on thin paper. The quality of the digital versions reflects the flaws in the originals found in the written records.

Shooting Scripts and Arrangements for Specific Photography Coverage

Longview Homesteads, Longview, Washington
Longview Homesteads, Longview, Washington. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, 1936 July.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b27975

Longview Homesteads
Pare Lorentz to Wilbur D. Staats, 1935 August 15
[PDF file, 1 p., 168 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1935
Description of associated LOT (group of photographs)

Dorothea Lange Itinerary, California and Southwest
Roy Stryker to Frederick P. Soule, 1935 Dec. 6
[PDF file, 1 p, 117 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1935

Arkansas - Families Moving
Roy Stryker to M.C. Blackman, 1936 Jan. 6
[PDF file, 1 p., 113 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1936

Alabama
Roy Stryker to William L. Lowry, "Subject: Photographer," 1936, March 17
[PDF file, 1 p, 187 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1936.
Note: Original text is not sharp.

Drought
Edwin Locke to Arthur Rothstein, 1936 July 14
[PDF File, 1 p., 36 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 8, Travel, Rothstein, 1936

Dust storm. Amarillo, Texas
Dust storm. Amarillo, Texas. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, 1936 April.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b27554

Dust Storms in Texas
Roy Stryker to Ralph G. Bray "Subject: Photographs," undated [1936?]
[PDF file, 1 p., 69 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1936

Michigan shackers - Russell Lee
Roy Stryker to Leo Nicholas, 1937 Feb. 16
[PDF file, 1 p., 148 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 1, Correspondence, General, 1937
Associated group of photos: LOT 1044

Wisconsin
R. I. Nowell to W. W. Alexander, 1937 May 13
[PDF file, 2 p., 153 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 1, Correspondence, Field, 1937
Original is poor quality

Coal Town, Shenandoah, PA
Roy Stryker to Sheldon Dick, 1938 Oct. 17
[PDF file, 2 p., 383 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Dick, Sheldon, 1938-1940

African American Communities, Arkansas and Texas
Phil Brown to Roy Stryker, undated [1938]
[PDF file, 1 p., 169 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1938

Jorena Pettway and her daughter, Gee's Bend, Alabama
Jorena Pettway and her daughter, Gee's Bend, Alabama. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, 1939 May?
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a40071

Alabama - Photography Assignment for Marion Post
[PDF file, 2 p., 69 kb]
William H. Dent to W.L. McArthur, 1939 March 16
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1939

Cotton

  • Roy Stryker to George Wolf, 1939 Sept. 29
    [PDF file, 1 p., 131 kb]
    LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field 1939, 1941
  • Roy Stryker to George Wolf, 1939 Oct. 25
    [PDF file, 2 p., 275 kb]
    LOT 12024, Box 7, Requisitions, Field, 1939

The Small Town
Author not recorded, "Notes for Discussion with Mr. Odum and staff"; "Shooting Script for 'The Small Town'"; "Notes for Study on Subregional Area," 1939 Oct.
[PDF file, 20 p., 1 mb]
LOT 12024, Box 30, Supplementary Reference Files, LOT 2237

Buyers looking at tobacco, Durham, North Carolina
Buyers looking at tobacco, Durham, North Carolina. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, 1939 Nov.?
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a41550

Tobacco - North Carolina

  • Author not recorded [Margaret Jarman Hagood, Univ. of North Carolina?], "Processes and Events to be Photographed within Definite Time Periods," 1939 Oct. 12
    [PDF file, 1 p., 51 kb]
    LOT 12024, Box 26, Supplementary Reference Files, LOT 1503
  • Harriet L. Herring, "Notes and Suggestions for Photographic Study of the 13 County Subregional Area," undated [1939?]
    [PDF file, 6 p., 356 kb]
    LOT 12024, Box 26, Supplementary Reference Files, LOT 1503
    Description of associated LOT (group of photographs)

Farm Debt Adjustment
Author not recorded, "Shooting Script of Farm Debt Adjustment," undated [between 1936 and 1939?]
[PDF file, 1 p., 149 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 4, Film Strips (Slide Films), Undated

Rehabilitation
Author not recorded, "Shooting Script for Rehabilitation Strip Film," undated [between 1936 and 1939?]
[PDF file, 1 p., 57 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 4, Film Strips (Slide Films), Undated

NYA defense housing project construction
NYA defense housing project construction, 1941 Summer.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d41059

Consumer Division in Action
Memo, Frances G. Knight, Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense, to Robert Collyer, 1941 March 25
[PDF file, 2 p., 137 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 1, Click Magazine 1941-1943

NYA Resident Training
Memo, Barbara Wright to Orren H. Lull, 1941 July 14
[PDF file, 5 p., 926 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, General, 1939-1941

Live At Home
Leslie Sorensen, "Suggested Pictures for 'Live at Home' Film Strip, undated [between 1939 and 1941?]
[PDF file, 4 p., 318 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 4, Film Strips (Slide Films), Undated

Defense Housing
Memo, Shelby Thompson to Roy Stryker, "Pictures of Defense Housing," 1942 Jan. 23
[PDF file, 1 p., 47 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 6, Requests for Photographs, 1942-1943

Coal miner at end of the day's work, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania vicinity
Coal miner at end of the day's work, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania vicinity. Photo by John Collier, 1942 Nov.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d23666

Coal
Author not recorded [John Collier, Jr.], "Coal," undated [1942 Oct.]
[PDF file, 1 p., 73 kb]
(Attribution and date based on draft of another copy dated 1942 Oct. 13)
LOT 12024, Box 1, Clearances, 1942-1943

Rail Transportation - Jack Delano

  • Outlines - Author not recorded [Jack Delano], undated [1942?],
    [PDF file, 10 p., 1.6 mb]
    LOT 12024, Box 1, Clearances, Army, 1942-1943.
    Includes 3 documents (originals are somewhat fuzzy):
    • An Outline for a Photographic Story on Rail Transportation in the Chicago Terminal District (3 p.)
    • Outline for a trip aboard a fast freight from Chicago Illinois to San Bernardino, Calif. (3 p.)
    • Brief Outline of a Photographic Study of Railroads (4 p.)
  • Roy Stryker to L.I. McDougle, 1942 October 12
    [PDF file, 1 p., 134 kb]
    LOT 12024, Box 1, Clearances, 1942-1943
Washington, D.C. Salvage drive
Washington, D.C., salvage drive. Photo by Marjory Collins, 1942 May.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c34651

The Farm Security Photographer Covers the American Small Town
Author not recorded, 1940 June 13,
[PDF file, 2 p., 273 kb]
(Notation on first page: "Exhibit Ansel Adams, San F. Fair" )
LOT 12024, Box 3, Exhibits 1941

Women in Industry
D.H. Davenport to Roy Stryker, 1942 Aug. 25
[PDF file, 2 p., 625 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Department of Labor, 1942-1944

Collecting Scrap
Majory Collins, "Shooting Script for Junk Story" undated [1942, April 26]
[PDF file, 3 p., 132 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 17, Supplementary Reference File for LOT 24
Description of associated LOT (group of photographs)

United Nations Flag Day
Author not recorded, United Nations Flag Day celebration: Oswego, New York, undated [1943]
[PDF file, 4 p., 270 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 22, Supplementary Reference File for LOT 769
Description of associated LOT (group of photographs)

England
Roy Stryker to Philip Bonn, 1943 June 17
[PDF file, 1 p., 180 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 5, Office of Education, 1942-1943

Longview Homesteads, Longview, Washington
Eighteen year-old mother from Oklahoma, now a California migrant. Photo by Dorothea Lange 1937 March.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b31773

Caption Sheets

Dorothea Lange's captions for photos in LOTs 344-345 (LOT includes the "Migrant Mother" series)
[PDF file, 20 p., 2.5 mb]
LOT 12024, Box 20, Supplementary Reference File for LOT 344-345
Description of associated LOTs (groups of images)

General Guidance and Procedures

Skills Required to be an FSA Photographer
Author not recorded, "The F.S.A. Photographer" undated [1935?]
[PDF file, 4 p., 817 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 5, Personnel, Undated

Eudora Welty job application
G.E. Falke to T. Roy Reid, "Subject: Information Applicant" 1936 July 31 (original fuzzy)
[PDF file, 1 p., 88 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, Field, 1936.

Improving Photographic Coverage

  • Roy Stryker to Theodor Jung, 1936 April 6
    [PDF file, 2 p., 141 kb]
    LOT 12024, Box 7, Travel, Miscellaneous, 1935-1937
  • Roy Stryker to Theodor Jung, 1936 April 13
    [PDF file, 3 p., 246 kb]
    LOT 12024, Box 7, Travel, Miscellaneous, 1935-1937
Roy Stryker, ca. 1941.
John Carter, Roy Stryker and Major Lewis at the Berwyn Project, Prince George's County, Maryland. Photo by Carl Mydans, 1935 Nov.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a00519

Berenice Abbott Photo Selection (for her teaching purposes?)
Roy Stryker to Berenice Abbott, 1938 May 19
[PDF file, 1 p., 91 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 2, Correspondence, General, 1938

How to Draft a Shooting Script
Memo: Roy Stryker to John Fischer, "Request from Region 12 for the services of a photographer and suggestion on a proposed film strip," 1938 Jan. 14 (original is fuzzy)
[PDF file, 2 p., 412 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 4, Film Strips (Slide Films), 1938

Slide Films [i.e., Film Strips]
Roy Stryker to Gordon Sessions, 1939 June 1
[PDF file, 1 p., 114 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 4, Film Strips (Slide Films), 1939.

Office Assignments and Developing Photographic Skills
Memo: Roy E. Stryker to David M. Myers, 1939 March 13
[PDF file, 2 p., 267 kb]
LOT 12024, Box 5, Personnel, 1939.

Poster Campaign in Factories
Memo: Ed Rosskam to Roy Stryker, 1942, Feb. 14
[PDF file, 2 p., 160 kb] (print quality uneven in the original)
LOT 12024, Box 6, Posters, 1941-1942

Research in the FSA/OWI Written Records (LOT 12024)

The FSA/OWI Written Records consists of 45 boxes of material. A published finding aid offers an overview of the records, a container list with folder headings (individual documents are not itemized), and information on related resources. [View the finding aid, PDF, 27 p. (double page spreads), 6 mb.]

The contents of all but two of the boxes have been microfilmed in order to make the information available while reducing wear and tear on the fragile originals. Researchers are welcome to use the microfilm in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room. The Library of Congress does not have copies of the microfilm to lend, but it is possible to purchase reels of the microfilm through the Library's Duplication Services.

Related Resources

Additional shooting scripts may be found in:

In preparing the finding aid to the FSA written records held by the Prints & Photographs Division, Annette Melville noted that, while the National Archives does not hold a distinct body of records for the Historical Section within the records of its parent body, the FSA Information Division, relevant records may exist in the record groups for the FSA (RG 96) and for the Office of War Information (RG 208) [visit the National Archives site].

For more information on related written records, see the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information "Selected Bibliography and Related Resources" and Appendix 4 of the finding aid.


Prepared by: Barbara Natanson and Jeff Bridgers, Prints & Photographs Division Reference Section, Oct. 2011.
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