Grand Grocery, 1942

Grand Grocery, 1942

(Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USF35-268)

Color photography was still relatively rare and expensive in 1942 when photographer John Vachon stopped at the Grand Grocery at 1000 P Street in downtown Lincoln. American Kodak introduced Kodachrome film in 1935; one could order prints from Kodachrome slides starting in 1941.

Fortunately for us, Vachon’s employer approved the extra expense. His photos are part of a collection of 1,600 color images made between 1939 and 1944 for the Farm Security Administration and, in the latter years, for the Office of War Information. The collection depicts American life, focusing mostly on agriculture and war mobilization. The Library of Congress has made the images available at

Because most World War II photos are black-and-white, it’s a treat to see a color photo from this era. The bright grapefruit and oranges drew the photographer’s eye, as they do ours.

The store window shows no evidence of it, but grocery shopping was about to become more complicated. Wartime food rationing began that year, starting with sugar in May.

— David Bristow, Editor. Posted 9/28/22. This story first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Nebraska History Magazine.

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