Industrial Life Photograph Collection, ca. 1920-1941

It mows your floors, ca. 1936. Bigelow-Sandford Carpet Company.

Mss: 1412 1920-1941 B979
58 boxes, approx. 2,100 photographs
Collection Guide
The Human Factor: Introducing the Industrial Life Photograph Collection at Baker Library

During the Depression, Harvard colleagues Donald Davenport and Frank Ayres acquired photographs illustrating the interaction of worker and machine to supplement classroom instruction at the Harvard Business School, where there was an increasing focus on industrial relations. Ayres and Davenport contacted 115 leading companies (International Harvester, Hershey’s Chocolate, Kraft-Phenix Cheese Corporation, U.S. Steel, and General Motors among them), as well as industries in Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia. They gathered more than 2,100 photographs dating from the 1920s to the early 1940s—from hardhats operating rail trucks in the depths of the International Salt Company mines to uniformed women of the California Fruit Growers Exchange packing produce in cavernous factory spaces.

Detroit, Michigan plant, ca. 1935, International Salt Company.

Included is the work of acclaimed Machine Age photographers such as Margaret Bourke-White, Lewis Hine, and others, who produced highly stylized images meant to instill confidence in corporate America. Researchers will find workers photographed in a variety of manufacturing operations, expansive views of factory exteriors and research laboratories, and close-ups of equipment and products. Most photographs were produced originally for publicity purposes, including annual reports, company histories, and advertising materials as well as illustrations for the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.