Sunday, June 30, 2013

More From LIFE Photographer, Myron Davis

Its the summer of 1945 and Willys-Overland is busy plugging away at selling and marketing the brand new CJ2-A, a vehicle that they have banked their future on practically since they were awarded the contract for the military MB. Just over 1,800 of the CJs were produced that first year that the jeep was sold to everyone from farmers to bankers for a work tool, a runabout, a grocery getter, a business vehicle. And somewhere in all of this the LIFE staff photographer Myron Davis who had photographed troop trains and their load of jeeps to just three years earlier than these 1945 dated photos the June 1942 testing/ training of troops and generals in early slat grills and GPs. I’m not sure how Davis figured into this, whether it was work that he did for LIFE or if whether he was perhaps under contract from Willys-Overland to take these shots as many of the ones that I’ve found pop up later on as press release photos.
I’ve found these first six as a part of the online Google Cultural Institute, an online collection of “exhibitions and collections from museums and archives all around the world.” As it turns out its a source of many, many early jeep gems and photographical reference materials (such as the side to side overhead comparison that aren’t found online in Google’s normal LIFE magazine collection. Only trouble is is that they are a bit of a hassle to “collect” from the online source and so I have download them a piece of the photo at a time and then stitch everything together in Photoshop, but they’ve been worth it for filling in some of the gaps in the early photographic record of the jeep.
As great as they are they’re incomplete as far as info goes on them filling in only the barest details as the photographer and year and month taken. No word on location as I wonder about the going to Sunday church series of photos that Davis took of the five member family in the summer of 1945. Its also a bit contradictory  as far as exact date with another single photo of the family found in Google’s normal online collection. I haven’t found any info on who these people may have been. Anyone have any info? Email if you do. I’d love to piece more of the story together, find out what they thought of the jeep. Being dated July 1945 I love seeing the details of the VEC (very early civilian) such as tool indents, a vestigial tail of its MB progenitor and the column mounted T-90 shifter.

The other photos mainly deal with a technical side, front and rear detailing of the MB, but I wonder if they could be considered CJ-1s, the early slightly modified MBs that led up to the development of the CJ-2 Agrijeeps? What was the purpose of the photo shoot and why the name JEEP stenciled on the hood if it wasn’t an early test of an MB/CJ-1? I’d guess that the dates are not 100% accurate.

I plan on having a bunch more of these and quite a few more from Myron Davis, whose work I admire. As well, I came across another project of Davis’, the aforementioned generals playing around in a ‘handling course’ drive through the mud of Fort Holabird in February 1942. I had filed them away and forgotten to post them. I’m on an impromptu holiday next week so I’ll try to correct them and get them posted tomorrow or Tuesday. Check out the Ford GP and the Willys slat grill!

I’ll also try to get back to the Industrial Equipment binder next week, just needed a break from the scanning this week and I was excited about putting these six shots together (quite actually putting them ‘together’!). I’ll hopefully also be getting a start on touching up and refurbing one of the last sections of the site that needs to be updated, the LIFE Archive. Come back next week and there will be lots more!

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