Historical Photos

Credit: Dorthea Lange and MOHAI

Credit: Dorothea Lange and Univ. of Washington – accompanying poem below

Our social studies’ standards call for students to work with primary documents and historical photography are a primary document. We have begun to write poetry based on our subject and selected photographs and the results are fantastic. We research the historical period then each student selects a photo and writes a poem to accompany it. The poems must include observations of the photo, historical accuracy, and a fictional back story for the photo.

Seattle had a World Fair before the 1962 version. The 1906 Alaska Yukon Pacific (AYP) Exposition brought people to Seattle which was perceived as a frontier town.

The Great Depression was captured by Dorthea Lange’s amazing photographs. Interestingly, Lange also came to the Yakima area and photographed workers in 1939. We use her Yakima photos to personalize our learning about Washington State history.

Likewise there are numerous Washington state photos available from WWII including topics on the Boeing plant and the start of Japanese internment at Camp Harmony at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.


Willowy brown hair frames a vacant stare

Clutching bare metal in the barbed fence.

Mother’s eyes shaded against the intense

Glare of the severe sun bearing down

Life shouldn’t be this hard when you’re fourteen

You should be catching crayfish by the creek

And memorizing verses for Sunday school

Helping mom bake apple pie and cherry cobbler

Cutting wind is like that barbed wire fence

Eats into the soul as well as the skin

Farm life is rugged but you work with the soil

Though at times it feels like the dirt fights back

Hope for the following day until hope isn’t enough

Try to hold your head high, comb out the tangled hair

Wear a clean flannel dress even though family

Is all that will see. We will survive this unless…

…we don’t.




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