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Photos: A look at Bunyan territory in 1939

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Paul Bunayn
Paul Bunyan monument, Bemidji, September 1939.
John Vachon | Courtesy of the Library of Congress

From 1935 through 1944, the U.S. government sent photographers across the country to document American life — and how relief programs were helping those struggling through the Great Depression.

St. Paul native John Vachon was one of the photographers assigned to photograph his way across the country. He took photos for the Farm Security Administration — and later the Office of War Information — from 1938 until 1943. Later, he was a staff photographer for Look magazine.

Vachon found himself back in his home state in 1939 (and again in 1941) "documenting the land, the farmer, everything related to the farmer," as he described it. He and his colleagues wanted to capture life as it truly was being lived at the time. "If it hits you emotionally or any other way, just tells you something you didn't know was," Vachon said.

John Vachon died in 1975, but would have turned 101 on Tuesday, May 19. All week, we'll be republishing photos from his Minnesota rovings.