Howard Hollem: August 1942. Corpus Christi, Texas. Aviation Cadet Thanas at Naval Air Base. (detail)

Work / Photography

Adjusted Kodachrome transparencies bring colour and contrast to the 1940s

“Kodachrome! They give us those nice bright colors, they give us the greens of summers, makes you think all the world’s a sunny day” sang Paul Simon in 1973. These incredible Kodachrome transparencies shot for the Office of War Information date from a few decades earlier. Taken on the home front in the thick of the Second World War, they’ve been adjusted by the Shorpy webmaster from originals held in the Library of Congress to give us those nice bright colours Paul Simon loved.

Many feature women taking on military and manufacturing roles for the first time – cleaning a giant H-class locomotive, riveting an A-20 bomber, making gasoline trailer tanks and correcting oversights in the camouflaging of a model defence plant. They’re fascinating snapshots made even more intriguing by that eerily crisp colour and contrast.


Jack Delano: Clinton, Iowa. April 1943. Chicago & North Western Railroad. Women wipers at the roundhouse cleaning one of the giant H-class locomotives.


Marjory Collins: March 1943. Camouflage class at New York University.


Alfred Palmer: October 1942. Douglas Aircraft plant at Long Beach, California. An A-20 bomber being riveted by a woman worker.


Alfred Palmer: October 1942. Inglewood, California. Employees at North American Aviation, Incorporated, assembling the cowling on Allison motors for the P-51 ‘Mustang’ fighter planes.


Jack Delano: March 1943. An eastbound Union Pacific freight waiting in a siding at Alray, California.


Jack Delano: April 1943. Chicago & North Western RR, tank cars going over the hump at Proviso yard, Chicago.