Lonely Planet Writer

Forgotten images of a Sunday afternoon in Central Park re-emerge after 75 years

A lazy Sunday evening in Central Park, New York has been captured in a series of incredible images that have re-emerged from 1942. The stunning shots show people relaxing in the park on the grass and on boats on the lake as well as elderly men playing croquet in the evening sun.

Sailors drinking from a water fountain in Central Park
Sailors on shore leave in Central Park in September 1942. Image by Marjory Collins mediadrumworld.com

Other striking pictures show parents with their kids at the fountain, women sitting outside the Central Park Restaurant and sailors from the US Navy enjoying their shore leave. The black and white photographs were taken by Marjory Collins who worked for the Office of War Information (OWI). On a pleasant Sunday in September 1942, Collins wandered around Manhattan’s Central Park, snapping photos of families, friends, sailors, and sweethearts enjoying one of the last days of summer.

Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States, with 40-million visitors in 2013 but these retro images prove the park was always a popular sanctuary for the people of New York. The United States was in the midst of World War Two in 1942 but you would never know it from these photographs as families play in the park and couples go for a romantic stroll.

Women pose for a photograph in Central Park
Central Park, New York, 1942. Image by Marjory/Collins mediadrumworld.com

During her tenure at the OWI, Collins completed around 50 assignments documenting life on the home front, focusing in particular on diverse ethnic communities across the country. Even when not on a particular assignment, she kept her camera handy and had worked as a magazine photographer in New York before the OWI.

New Yorkers enjoying a Sunday afternoon in Central Park
New Yorkers relaxing on a bench in Central Park in September, 1942. Image by Marjory Collins mediadrumworld.com

The Office of War Information was created in 1942 by the US government to create and distribute information and propaganda about the war effort at home and abroad. The OWI absorbed the photographic unit of the Farm Security Administration, which had become famous for its documentation of the Great Depression under the direction of Roy Stryker.