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Brotherhood of Trainmen Officers in 1943 and a 1955 Railroad Tragedy (editor’s title)

Lodge #364 officers
Jack Delano’s photographic story of Chicago railroading for FSA-OWI covered virtually every aspect of railroad life . . . except for accidents. Fatal and disabling mishaps were, and are, an altogether too common element in the industry, but an element which did not necessarily harmonize with the positive approach Delano’s assignment compelled him to take. This image of officers of Albert Keep Lodge No. 364, International Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen at West Chicago in January, 1943, carries with it that element through the accidental death, twelve years later, of one of the officers, Carl Berkes, third from left. In March, 1955, he fell backwards under the wheels of a passing train and suffered immediately fatal head injuries at the age of 53. One of the regular commuters whose tickets Berkes routinely collected or punched remembered him as “a kind, gentle man who performed his duties with faithfulness and thoroness.” (The spelling of “thoroughness” was one of the attempts of the Chicago Tribune, which published the tribute to Berkes, to modernize English.) The officers in the picture were, from left, vice-president E. H. Schlueter, a yard engine foreman; treasurer and local chairman F. C. Ehredt, a ticket collector and assistant conductor; Berkes, who was the lodge’s legislative representative and a passenger trainman; and president W. M. Hoag, a yard engine foreman. The lodge was a local for Chicago & North Western employees, organized in 1890 and with 150 members in 1943. Part of Delano’s assignment was to document patriotic wartime activity on the homefront. His notes indicate that the lodge bought $400 in war bonds with funds from its treasury, a sum worth well more than 10 percent of an average household’s income in 1943.  
Alternate Title FSA-OWI Railroad Photography
Source Library of Congress
Coverage Spatial, West Chicago, Illinois; Temporal, January 1943
Rights Library of Congress
Date Created 1943
Resource Type
Extent 2-1/4 in. x 3-1/4 in., nitrate
Location West Chicago, Illinois
Creator Description Jack Delano (1914-97) had careers as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, beginning in 1940, and a composer of music. Born in Ukraine, he came to the U.S. in 1923. He graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1932, and because of an impressive photographic project about mining conditions in the Pennsylvania anthracite area, got a job with the FSA. He photographed railroads extensively for the FSA and its successor, the Office of War Information. He worked particularly in Chicago, then to the Pacific Coast, often using color--a new medium at the time. He concentrated on showing how the railroad industry worked and on the people who did the work. As part of another FSA project he visited Puerto Rico and settled there in 1946, becoming an important composer of serious Puerto Rican music, much of it derived from folk tunes.
Comments The Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information began as a New Deal program of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency as a part of the Resettlement Administration, which was established to combat poverty. It evolved into the modern Farmers Home Administration that helps farmers acquire property. The FSA engaged photographers to document rural America, resulting in iconic images by such notable photographers as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Gordon Parks. After the U.S. declared war on Japan and also joined its European allies in their strike against Germany in 1941, the government created the Office of War Information, whose photographers documented America's mobilization from 1942 through 1943. (The war ended in 1945.) They concentrated on topics like industry and women and minorities in the work force. FSA and OWI photography efforts were led by Roy Emerson Stryker, and the resulting 108,000 images are now at the Library of Congress. Many document railroad-related subjects, especially World War II home-front activities.
Collection Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection
Image ID LC-USW3- 015791-D
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