The Future of America: Lewis Hine’s New Deal Photographs


Lewis Wickes Hine, [Worker pressing rubber bodies, Paragon Rubber Company and American Character Doll, Easthampton, Massachusetts], December 1936 (778.1975)

Among the least known but most prescient photographs taken by social documentary photographer Lewis Hine (1874–1940) were those he made as chief photographer for the National Research Project (NRP), a division of the federal government’s Works Project Administration (WPA) founded in late 1935. The goal of the NRP was to investigate recent changes in industrial technologies and to assess their effects on future employment. In over 700 photographs, taken in industrial towns throughout the Northeast in 1936 and 1937, Hine revealed not only working conditions in aging industrial factories, but also in new industries and productive workplaces. The NRP published hundreds of reports illustrated with Hine’s photographs on a broad variety of agricultural, manufacturing, and mining activities. His works captured the look of labor and industry in transition, while the entire NRP story provides provocative parallels to today’s economic challenges. The Future of America, organized by Hine scholar Judith Mara Gutman, draws on ICP’s archive of more than 300 of Hine’s prints from the NRP series and the master holdings at the National Archives. The exhibition will be on view in ICP’s galleries through October 19, 2014.

hine_lewis_799_1975Lewis Wickes Hine, [Semi-skilled worker inserting balance screws in rim of balance wheel, Hamilton Watch Factory, Lancaster, Pennsylvania], January 1937 (799.1975)

hine_lewis_963_1975Lewis Wickes Hine, [Machinist shaping section of driving rod for largest locomotive, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania], April 1937 (963.1975)

hine_lewis_897_1975Lewis Wickes Hine, [Two workers stamping glass jars with new device for lettering painted bottles, T. C. Wheaton Company, Millville, New Jersey], March 1937 (897.1975)

hine_lewis_841_1975Lewis Wickes Hine, [Bedroom and living room in company-owned home of workers at Highland Cotton Mills, High Point, North Carolina], January 1937 (841.1975)

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