Previous generations have left us a priceless legacy of American history: detailed photographic records dating back to the Civil War. These "vintage photos" are a fascinating glimpse into times gone by, and the lives of the people who lived then.
The most detailed photographic documentation dates from the heyday of socially conscious photography: the period from the Great Depression through World War II. [More after ye squiggle.]
A New Deal government agency, the Farm Security Administration, employed a stable of amazing photographers who traveled around the country, documenting hard times and the government's various attempts to alleviate the hard times. Among these photographers were Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, John Vachon, Jack Delano, and many others.
A huge archive of these photos (and many others) is available at the Library of Congress web site. However, it's a huge collection to wade through and there are several sites which feature selections. One of these is my new blog, Vintage Photos. It features a good and growing selection of these images, cleaned up and lightly edited. I find the faces of the people, particularly those in dire poverty, to be truly poignant. I also think these photos are a good reminder of battles past, and that we seem to be fighting many of the same ones again.
Another good site to visit for vintage photos is Shorpy. He's got a huge collection with more added daily. People are also invited to submit their own vintage photos.