In the winter of 1942-1943, Jack Delano, born Jacob Ovcharov, took hundreds of portraits of porters, linemen, engineers, conductors and other workers in the Chicago railyards. Delano was on assignment from the U.S. Office of War Information to document everyday working conditions in the railroads. Using cutting-edge technology for the day — portable 8×10 film cameras — Delano photographed hundreds of Slovenians, Polish, Ukrainians, African-Americans and others working in various aspects of the railroad industry. Now, the Center for Railroad Photography and Art and the Chicago History Museum, has sought to bring those 73-year old images to life, by telling the stories of each worker in Delano’s photos.
Brian Standing spoke with John Gruber, the past president of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, about his new edited volume “Railroaders: Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography.”