Christmas During the Great Depression: Visiting the Pauley Family, 1936



During the Winter of 1936, photographer Russell Lee made his way through the Midwest photographing the impacts of the Great Depression on daily life.  On one of his stops in rural Iowa, he met a tenant farmer named Earl Pauley and was invited to visit his home for Christmas.  

The following photos provide a rare, authentic look in to the life of a family that was just barely making it.  Earl was a renter on this 185 acre farm, and he built the house himself after the first one burned down a few years earlier.  He and his wife had four young children and a new baby.  Despite times being tough for them, they still managed to have a proper Christmas dinner and managed to even invite a guest.  

The home of Earl Pauley.  He built it himself after the first one burned down.  

Two of Earl's children look out the window of the small, dug-in house.  If you look closely, you'll see the wall's are constructed by varying layers of wood and cardboard for insulation.

Earl's family had recently welcomed a new member.  No fancy cribs back then!