Hot Links
Message Board
Article Archives
APS Application
APS Chapter Homepages

Message Board Home Bookstore Links

Behind the Scenes:
The Great Depression Stamp

Depression The little girl hiding her face behind her mother in the Great Depression stamp in the Celebrate the Century series is Katherine McIntosh of Modesto, California, now age 67.

The photographer told the family the picture would not be published. Now it's on a stamp (and was widely published before that).

According to the Associated Press, McIntosh remembers when it was taken: She was 5, and she, her mother and two sisters were waiting by the side of the road for her two big brothers to return with some way to fix their car. Her mother was 32 then, with 5 children, and two more to come after the photo was taken.

The photo "represents the women of depression," McIntosh says, but she and her family really weren't there because of the Depression, but because her father suffered from asthma until his death. They had been living comfortably in California's San Joaquin Valley. But with no income, the family was forced to become migrant workers, picking all sorts of crops, from cotton to potatoes. Unlike many Depression refugees, however, they were not fleeing Oklahoma's Dust Bowl, like the migrants in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. They were Californians.

Photographer Dorothea Lange told Mrs. Thompson the pictures could help the migrant workers, showing the government "what kind of plight these people were in," says McIntosh. The photo didn't get much circulation until after Lange died, but then "Every time any kind of documentary comes out about the Depression and the Dust Bowl, they always relate this picture to the Dust Bowl."

None of the Thompsons ever got a nickel from the photo. Last month, a print with Lange's handwritten notes and signature sold for $244,500 at Sotheby's -- and that makes McIntosh angry. "If it had gone to a charity, we wouldn't have gotten mad," she told the AP.

The migrant work ended in the 1940s when Mrs. Thompson found work at a state hospital in Modesto, California. She died in 1983 of colon cancer. Her 3 surviving children all live in the San Joaquin Valley again.

"The pictures didn't affect our lives, the lifestyle affected our lives," says McIntosh. "The pictures didn't make better kids out of us. Mother did."

Virtual Stamp Club Home Page