Saturday, June 7, 2008

Holyoke, 1941: Faces, Places, Factories and Fun

Shot in the early autumn of 1941, these John Collier photographs were commissioned by the Farm Securities Administration as part of a larger project documenting the lives of impoverished rural Americans. Although central Holyoke could hardly be considered rural, poverty has laid its ugly hand upon parts of the town for many years. Indeed, the struggle seems to have no end for some folks.

But in America, smiles sneak in between the trials, hope and progress refuse to be quieted. And no one stops to rest for very long in the swift current of change.

Photo captions are from the Library of Congress's web site.

The faces...

Children of the mill workers of Holyoke, Massachusetts (Oct. 1941)

Women talk. Street scene at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

Men talk. Street scene at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

There is plenty of fresh air and sunlight for the workers' children in the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

This girl's mother is Lithuanian and her father is Polish. Workers' section of Holyoke, Massachusetts (Oct. 1941)

Their places...

Generations of feet have trodden this worker's doorway. Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

Between the mills and the canals is where the workers live. Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

This block of workers' homes ninety years old. Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

Workers' homes. Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project, Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

Holyoke, Massachusetts. The low income housing project of the FHA (Federal Housing Association) in the Berkshire Mountains (Sept. 1941)

Plenty of room to hang out washing in the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

The factories...

Canals run in a half circle through the mill area at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

View looking west over the Connecticut River to the industrial section of Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

Holyoke is a city of canals which supply water to the paper mills that line their banks. Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

And fun...

Movie attraction in the workers' section at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Oct. 1941)

Theatre in workers' section at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Oct. 1941)

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project is built on the edge of the "slum area" at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

Children play in safety in the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project at Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

Mill worker's children. Holyoke, Massachusetts (Sept. 1941)

More vintage Holyoke images on EWM: Photos: Civic Structures of Holyoke, Mass...A Century Past

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Photos source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Collier, John
01. Digital ID:
02. Digital ID:
03. Digital ID:
04. Digital ID:
05. Digital ID:
06. Digital ID:
07. Digital ID:
08. Digital ID:
09. Digital ID:
10. Digital ID:
11. Digital ID:
12. Digital ID:
13. Digital ID:
14. Digital ID:
15. Digital ID:
16. Digital ID:
17. Digital ID:
18. Digital ID:
19. Digital ID:
20. Digital ID:
21. Digital ID:

Home|Welcome|Table of Contents|Explore|Upcoming Events|Patrons|Marketplace|Contact|Privacy


VanDog said...

Way cool! Wondered what my house looked like around that time period.

htlkme said...

Great photos-My friend lives in a rowhouse on Walnut St that is over 100 years old..near Appleton need I say more.
My ex and I grew up in the Flats and Churchill left in "66" Our neighborhoods were clean and safe..
We were girls and boys standing on High St laughing and talking..going to any of the 6-7 movie theaters..the many dances offered each week.I lived in Holyoke from 1945 until 1966 or "67"
I tell my friends about growing up in a great New England town..recently one of them passed through and looked at me in horror..he asked if that was the Holyoke I always talk about.
I told him "No" that is a Holyoke I don't know.

Tony said...

Good stuff.

webgirl said...

Fantastic! Love these old photos! I recently found some more old Holyoke photos:

webgirl said...

oops - that link didn't paste properly. Go to:

and search for "Holyoke"

Mike Dobbs said...

I love the one showing a one-sheet for the Columbia serial "The Iron Claw." I'll have to ask a Holyoke old-timer just where the Bijou was.

glnnsllvn said...

Vincent George Brown(HHS1960) is a very good authority on the Flats. He informed me that the Bijou Theater was located on the east side of Main St. north of Cabot. Present day would be across the street from Beckers' clothing or across from where the RMV was a few decades ago. By the way, loved the Springfield Postcard history. Also, alot of these Collier photos are of the Lyman mills apartments. With a little work could probably name those in the photos. I have spoken with a few who lived there at that time, but alas they are not getting any younger! Especially liked the conical roof of Opera house in the background of one photo(Dwight, John and Front Sts.-present day parking deck.
Glenn Sullivan(

jim m said...

what a great colletion of photos holyoke at its best i used to love to here my grandmother tell her stories to me and my faveroit was one she told me about how on grandfather propsed to her at the mt tom summit house

David Parsons said...

Great photos. I grew up in Holyoke, well, South Hadley Falls, but went to school at Rosary in the Flats. Great times.