The Human Machinery of War

Photograph: Worker Smoking a Cigarette

Original Title/Caption: “Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas.”


Description: In this color photograph, a worker smokes a cigarette.  The worker’s face is ashen, and his clothes and face appear to be covered in grime.  The background is almost completely black, and the worker’s hat seems to fade into the dark setting.  This photograph was taken in 1942 by John Vachon.


Source: Vachon, John, photographer. “Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas.”  Photograph, 1942.  From Library of Congress: Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Call number LC-USW36-842. (accessed March 20, 2007).


Historical discussion: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that between 1942 and 1945 some 8,931,900 industrial accidents occurred on the home front.  These industrial accidents resulted in deaths, “permanent total disabilities,” “permanent partial disabilities,” and “temporary total disabilities.”

See “Estimated Number of Disabling Industrial Injuries, By Major Industry Group: 1942 to 1946,” in Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1947 (Washington: G.P.O., 1947), 216.