University of Texas at Arlington

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UTA Libraries Documents World War II Life in Fort Worth, Texas

by Jody Bailey July 21, 2017 0 comments

by guest contributor Jeff Downing, Digital Projects Librarian, UTA Libraries Digital Creation Department

In 1940, Fort Worth was a slow-paced city whose economy depended on cotton, cattle, and oil. By 1945, it was a fast-growing economic dynamo generating tens of thousands of jobs related to World War II. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (FWST) captured this transformative time in photographs, documenting the war effort, industrial expansion, and everyday life on the home front.

Fort Worth determinedly sought connections to the defense industry in the 1940s. The city became home to a regional Quartermaster Depot, the Fort Worth Army Air Field (now the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base), the Naval Reserve Training Center, the Marine Air Station, and the Army Air Forces Training Command Headquarters. In 1942, Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation built a manufacturing plant in Fort Worth. The plant employed over 30,000 people at its height and produced around 3,000 B-24 bombers. FWST images reveal that many of these defense workers were women and minorities who took advantage of newly created opportunities.

Although the war dominated all aspects of life, the FWST continued to cover commonplace events. Photos show Girl Scouts learning to knit and Boy Scouts delivering packages at Christmas, and there was the usual local news like fires, floods, crime, government, social affairs, and civic undertakings. Sports have always been a favorite topic in Texas and the photographs show major figures such as golfers Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Ben Hogan, and teams like baseball’s Fort Worth Cats and Texas Christian University football teams.

Faye Emerson and Elliott Roosevelt
Mrs. Faye Emerson, actress and Mr. Elliott Roosevelt, son of President and Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, attend a social event.

To preserve this photographic documentation, the Libraries sought and received $25,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities through Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s TexTreasures program. Those funds are being used solely for student employees to scan and provide rich metadata for 25,000 images. The images are becoming part of the UTA Libraries Digital Gallery, soon to be home to over 50,000 items representing more than 150 collections housed in the Libraries’ Special Collections Department.

Both military and civilian life are equally represented:

The Libraries recently learned we have been awarded a second TexTreasures grant, also in the amount of $25,000, to continue the scanning work for FY2017-18. By August 2018, we will have at least 50,000 World War II/Fort Worth-related images accessible to scholars everywhere.