It’s sometimes said that “the past is a foreign country.” That may be the feeling you get when you look at these photographs below, of America during the Great Depression and the years immediately following.

The U.S. in the 1930s was a very different place, as the photos show. In terms of per capita income, the U.S. then was poorer than Mexico is today. The Civil Rights movement had not yet occurred, and Jim Crow laws still ruled the South. Women had been voting in national elections for fewer than two decades.

The photographers who snapped these images were charged with documenting America, often its poor and vulnerable communities. The project, sponsored by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information between 1935 to 1945, was meant to build support for government programs, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Resettlement Administration act of 1935, which aided the poorest third of farmers displaced by the Great Depression. It is the largest photography project ever sponsored by the U.S. government.

The Library of Congress has maintained and cataloged the collection, and Photogrammar, a site run by Yale University, now hosts 170,000 of the photographs.

The photos immediately below are some selected shots from New York, L.A., Washington, D.C., and Chicago. You can see more photos, including some from Texas, in the slideshow below.

A backyard near the Capitol, a neighborhood where both whites and blacks lived in Washington, D.C., in 1935 (click on the photos to enlarge them):


Backyard near Capitol, Washington, D.C. Carl Mydans, Aug. 1935.

An aerial view of cars and streetcars in front of the Willard Hotel, at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C.:


Aerial view of a street corner, in front of the Willard Hotel, at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. David Myers, 1939.

People waiting in line for tickets outside Loew's Capitol movie theater in D.C.:


People waiting in line for tickets outside Loew's Capitol motion picture theatre, Washington, D.C. David Myers, 1939.

Boys play with a pigeon in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood:


Boys in Washington, D.C. Carl Mydans, Nov. 1935.

Children playing in their backyard near the Capitol. Washington, D.C.:


Children playing in their backyard near the Capitol. Washington, D.C. Carl Mydans, Nov. 1935.

A streetcar operator in Washington, D.C., in 1936:


Streetcar operator. Washington, D.C. Carl Mydans, 1936.

Street vendors in New York City in 1938:


Street vendors. Jack Allison, 1938.

A nun takes up a collection outside of Macy's in New York City in 1939:


A nun collecting contributions outside the door of Macy's department store. Paul Vanderbilt, 1939.

Children play under hanging laundry in an alley in the Bronx:


An avenue of clothes between 138th and 139th Street apartments, just east of St. Anne's Avenue, Bronx, New York. Russell Lee, November 1936.

Young men hang out at 38th St. and 7th Ave. in New York City, 1936:


Young men at 38th Street and 7th Avenue, New York City. Russell Lee, November 1936.

Children play on 61st St. in New York City in 1938:


Children play in the street on 61st Street between 1st and 3rd Avenues. Walker Evans, 1938.

Children in front of an apartment in Chicago in 1941:


Children in front of "kitchenette" apartment, Chicago, Ill. Edwin Rosskam, Apr. 1941.

Women dressed up for Chicago's 1941 Easter Parade:


Women dressed up for the Easter parade on the South Side of Chicago, Ill. Russell Lee, Apr. 1941.

Children playing "ring-around-the-rosie" in Chicago's "Black Belt," the South Side neighborhoods that were home to most of the African-American population:


Children playing "ring around a rosie" in Chicago's so-called "Black Belt." Edwin Rosskam, Apr. 1941.

A chicken farmer who received federal assistance during the Great Depression, in San Fernando Valley, Cal. in 1936:


Chicken farmer in San Fernando Valley, Cal. Dorothea Lange, Feb. 1936.

Men trek out of Los Angeles county "because of police activity," according to the photographer:


"The trek of bums, tramps, single transients and undesirable indigents out of Los Angeles County because of police activity." Dorothea Lange, Feb. 1936.

You can see more images from the collection in the slide show below.

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