Kodachrome Mythmaking

More photos from the 1940s courtesy of the archives on Shorpy.com.

Way back in 2009 I posted some other images from this set of photos taken as part of official wartime propaganda by the US government to highlight the heavy industrialisation and re-armament programs following their official entry into the conflict in 1941.

It’s hard to imagine a similar project being conducted today. It seems like this sort of imagery belongs to a less cynical time. They’re unashamedly patriotic but for good reason. The government had gone to great lengths to restore confidence in the economy following the depression. They were modernising agriculture and industry and cementing their unions and social security programs. Public sentiment towards Axis conquests in Europe and Asia was shifting and the US was shrugging off an isolationist foreign policy that most people have forgotten ever existed. Re-armament programs and the draft depleted the labor market and businesses were suddenly compelled to employ people regardless of gender, race or age. Meanwhile the government pushed hard to promote this cultural shift (this cringeworthy clip is ten years down the track but still illustrative of how the government tackled the ‘problem’ of women in the workforce)

These images have a very hopeful feel to them and they tell you something about the attitudes that inform Americans today. The continued expansion of the US ‘military/industrial complex’ following the end of that war and the disastrous military interventions in the decades that followed have made people forget that, for a time, the world was crying out for US aid and protection (Frank Capra’s ‘Why We Fight‘ is a good primer to the official sentiments about the war that the government wanted to get across).

With hindsight these images seem to be a crude attempt at creating a national myth about equality, modernisation or patriotism but for for a great number of people at the time I can imagine this depiction seemed compelling and honest.

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