10.19.2010

Three For A Dime

A few weeks ago I got a Formspring question asking about my favorite local fashion blogs. Since I don't know too many fashion blogs written out of Little Rock, I responded with a small list of my friends blogs and I told her that my favorite local blog wasn't about fashion, rather about history. It's called the Encyclopedia of Arkansas and it's a brilliant documentation of Arkansas' history and culture.

It wasn't long after I responded that I got a comment on twitter letting me know that the Encyclopedia of Arkansas was, coincidentally, the company that she worked for! We held hands and sang "it's a small world after all" and then she told me about the latest exhibit at the Butler Center downtown.
The exhibit (by Maxine Payne) is called"Making Pictures: Three for a Dime" and it documents the lives of Jim and Mancy Massingills family as they traveled across Arkansas taking pictures from 1937-1941.

There were three homemade trailers in all, one for Jim and Mancy, one for their son Lance and his wife, Evelyn, and one for their youngest son Lawrence and his wife, Thelma. They weren't specialists in photography, but with a little time and a lot of work, they managed to build a homemade camera and photo booth inside the trailer. They would go from town to town taking pictures of the locals and selling them three for a dime. Both the men and the women took the pictures, but the women also specialized in hand tinting them for an extra nickel.

They were geniuses if you ask me. They figured out a way to make a little bit of money while raising a family in the rural south. I loved every single photograph that I saw! It was interesting to see the different ways the women would shade the repeating backgrounds and all the different fun and vibrant colors they would use.

The journal entries were also quite interesting to read, though I think the most routine and mundane ones were my favorite:

"Lawrence went to Bald Knob and I ironed. It rained again today."
 There were shots of young kids dressed as cowboys, best friends posed back to back, and couples leaning head to head. There were all kinds of different personalities and outfits too. I think the above photos were my favorites.

It's unbelievable to think that Maxine Payne – a professor at one of the local colleges – acquired this story along with 700 of the photographs! I thought their was a book for sell, but I can't seem to find anything about it now. If your interested in learning more about Maxine or want to see more of the Massingill family work, you can find it at her website.

15 comments:

Annie, Time Enough for Drums said...

I love that second photo cause my grandma's name was Thelma and she was from Arkansas!

Shelby said...

this is great. i just adore old photos.

rachel / Red Lips Vintage said...

i want to live their life! i love the photo booth pics with tinting, it makes them so charming. and talk about coincidences, wow!

moonshinejunkyard said...

raddest thing ever. i love their whole idea, their travels by trailers as a family, their makeshift photo booth. creativity, artistic talent, hard work..that's real inspiration all right! i can't wait to check out more about them. i love how one little inquiry or thought leads to another and brings brilliant new insights into one's life. thanks for sharing this starr. it rocks.

Sarah J said...

These are all so wonderful. i absolutely love the captions '___ in her trailer'. BEST. I've been having a look through your posts, just so you know, you are beautiful. :)

Rebecca said...

These are fantastic, thanks for sharing them. There is nothing I love more than a bit of social history. Their story is fascinating and they way they applied tints too.

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Kristin said...

interesting pics!

Amber Blue Bird said...

I love the old photos, there is just a quality about them that cant be reproduced.

Justice Pirate said...

I totally can see how you are into anthropology after reading this entry.

you are adorable by the way.

Sally Jane Vintage said...

What a great little slice of history. I love the story and the diary entries. The simple ones are definitely the best! It gives such a true glimpse into what their everyday lives were like. This is a treasure!

littlequeen513 said...

Ha ha someone took a picture of their dolly. So cute!

Penny Dreadful said...

Hehe, isn't it nice when you come across funny little facts like that. I do love a bit of social history, all the more when it is fromm where you live.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

Lots like an excellent collection, and I love reading the stories behind photos. There was a great film on British television a few years ago, (fictional) about a photo museum and the frankly pretty strange staff who worked there. One guy had an amazing memory for faces and was able to find the same people again and again in completely different parts of the collection, and reconstruct their stories in that way. I bet you would have loved it!

Beatrice said...

that is so interesting! Now I want to read more ^.~
The photo of you in the dark is so amazing!!!!