Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oregon or Bust

This is one of my favorite photographs from the Great Depression. The picture was taken in 1936, and shows Vernon Evans by his Model T. Ford. The picture was taken on Highway 10 in Montana. Vernon has left the drought-stricken area of the Dust Bowl, looking for a new start in Oregon. He has his tent tied to his back bumper, and he and his family live in the tent.

What I love about the picture is the sign he has on the back of his car, "Oregon or Bust". I think this reflects the indomitable American Spirit. I was not able to find any other information on Vernon Evans, so I really don't know how things went for him once he got to Oregon, but my guess is that he probably ended up back on his feet.


  1. Please notice that Highway 10 looks like the path we had on the farm to get back and forth between the house and the fields. Thankfully, highway engineering has come a long way in eighty-some years.

    I agree that this guy and his family probably made it to Oregon and succeeded nicely.

  2. Least it looks like he had good tires. I like that picture!

  3. I started wondering about him, too, and found that there is an interview with him: here. What a character!

    And a 1982 New York Times article about him here.

    I love your photos!

  4. Lesley lang, you added a whole new element to this blog, which was already great. It was a good ending to a mystery photo. Gosh Ding, this made my day.

  5. Good job Leslie Lang - it was nice to read 'the rest of the story'....
    love the website as usual....
    How's the oven? :)

  6. Calibama,
    Stove has been working now for about a week, so keeping my fingers crossed.

  7. Oh, this is such a lovely photo! I have another photograph in a book, "Ruby from Tennessee, Daughter of Migrant Worker Living in America River Camp near Sacramento". Very powerful image.


  8. Vernon Evans was a young man working as a hired hand around Lemmon, South Dakota, when the Depression hit. He was let go and couldn't find other work.

    So, Vern, his wife Flora, her sister, her brother and another friend left for Oregon where other friends were already living. Vern was lucky to find a job with the railroad the first day they were in Oregon.

    Vern and Flora lived in Oregon for nine years until his dad died. The returned to the farm in South Dakota and stayed. But the other people on the trip stayed in Oregon and only returned for visits.

    There's an interview with him on

  9. For anyone who has seen pictures from the Dust Bowl and is wondering what happened to their subjects I just learned about the Farm Security Administration photographers in class and read this book: "Dust Bowl Descent" by Bill Ganzel. This guy tracked down countless subjects and locations of the FSA photos, interviewed them, and took new pictures, including the famous "Migrant Mother" and her children. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone!


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