Dugout Home - Jack Whinery Family

Dugout Home - Jack Whinery Family (Illustration) American History Famous Historical Events Government Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Visual Arts Law and Politics

This dugout home and its adjacent garden - located in Pie Town, New Mexico - belonged to Jack Whinery and his family.  Russell Lee took the picture - part of the "Bound for Glory" exhibition - in September of 1940. 

We learn more about Pie Town, its residents (like the Jack Whinery family) and its photographers (like Russell Lee) in American Photography and the American Dream (by James Guimond):

Many of the inhabitants of Pie Town, a community of 250 families, were refugees from the Dust Bowl who arrived in New Mexico in 1935 and had the good luck - or the good sense - to try homesteading instead of migrant work in California.  Most of the homesteaders arrived "without any money," Lee said.  "Usually they brought their kids, their personal belongs, some furniture, and some family heirlooms, in cars that barely made the grade." 

But settled families helped newcomers get started.  Everyone worked hard and cooperated, a point Lee emphasized heavily throughout the photo essay; and by 1940, Pie Town had a church, a farm bureau, a school in the farm bureau building, a literary society, square dances, and community sings and picnics.

Pie Town, however, did not have a very high "standard of living."  The community was very isolated.  Its main contact with the outside world was a Plymouth sedan  that functioned as a daily stagecoach.  It was sixty-five miles from the nearest railroad, twenty miles from a doctor or telegraph, and ten miles from the nearest telephone.  Most of the people Lee photographed worked tremendously hard and had few, or no, luxuries visible in their homes. 

"It isn't an easy life we've got here," one farmer told Lee, and because of the short growing season "we don't have too much to do with.  We came without money, we've had to grub and clear our land ... But we don't go hungry, that's one thing."  (American Photography and the American Dream, by James Guimond, page 131.)

What kind of homes (and storage sheds) did the people in Pie Town build for themselves?  In his photos, Russell Lee:

...sought to show the different stages of the process through which they [the Pie Town residents] became more settled, comfortable, and secure.  Some homesteaders, the newest arrivals, lived in dugouts [with dirt floors], others lived in log cabins, and "old-timers" lived in sizable houses made of sawed boards.  Lee was able to photograph, in great detail, all the stages of building a dugout and the ways in which log cabins were constructed.  (Guimond, page 132.)

Even people who lived in larger homes, however, had no ice.  Whenever someone made the trip (thirty or forty miles) to get ice, several families got together for an ice-cream party.

Click on the image for a greatly expanded view.

See, also:

The Jack Whinery Family from Pie Town, New Mexico

Faro and Doris Caudill - Pie Town Homesteaders

Faro Caudill, Drawing Water at His Dugout Home

4th of July at St. Helena Island

Family at Bayou Bourbeau Plantation

Tenant Home at a Mississippi River Levee

Worker at a Carbon Black Plant in Sunray, Texas

Children at the Vermont State Fair

Children at a Massachusetts Tenement

Children Gathering Potatoes near Caribou, Maine

Trucks Outside a Starch Factory in Caribou

Migratory Workers by a Florida "Juke Joint"


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 30, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Nov 04, 2016

Media Credits

Image 21 (of 70) included in the Exhibition, "Bound for Glory," online courtesy Library of Congress.  The LOC describes this reproduction, from a color slide, as follows:


Russell Lee. Garden adjacent to the dugout home of Jack Whinery, homesteader. Pie Town, New Mexico, September 1940. Reproduction from color slide. LC-USF351-583. LC-DIG-fsac-1a34167. FSA/OWI Collection. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress describes the color photographs contained in the Bound-for-Glory exhibit as follows:

Bound for Glory: America in Color is the first major exhibition [September 8–January 21, 2006] of the little known color images taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI).


Comprised of seventy digital prints made from color transparencies taken between 1939 and 1943, this exhibition reveals a surprisingly vibrant world that has typically been viewed only through black-and-white images. These vivid scenes and portraits capture the effects of the Depression on America's rural and small town populations, the nation's subsequent economic recovery and industrial growth, and the country's great mobilization for World War II.

The photographs in Bound for Glory, many by famed photographers such as John Vachon, Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott, document not only the subjects in the pictures, but also the dawn of a new era - the Kodachrome era. These colorful images mark a historic divide in visual presentation between the monochrome world of the pre-modern age and the brilliant hues of the present. They change the way we look - and think about - our past.


Quoted passages from American Photography and the American Dream, by James Guimond.


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