Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 336


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Polly Smith showed her love for Texas through the lens of her Graflex camera. The photographs Smith made to publicize the state for the 1936 Centennial Exposition portray a positive image of Texas's business and industry, everyday life, and natural scenes. Although she began her work in late 1935, about the same time the Farm Security Administration photographers started to document the United States during the Great Depression, Smith's photographs sought to entice people to come to Texas, not to document the plight of those suffering from the economic disaster or benefiting from Roosevelt's government programs. Yet, even though they were essentially "advertising" images, the photographs Smith took have transcended their original purpose and today are a valuable portrait of the state during the mid-1930s.

Evelyn Barker first came to know and love Polly Smith's photographs when she served as a curator at the Dallas Historical Society and worked with the images that were part of a collection of Texas Centennial records. Little specific information about Smith was available at the time, so Barker sought out family members and other historical collections that shed light on Smith's life. This book is the result of that research, combining the story of Polly Smith's photographic career and the efforts to publicize the Centennial in its first third with handsomely reproduced images in the remaining portion.