One-man show

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An “Old Florida” fisherman gets help tying up at the wharf on Lower Matecumbe Key in December 1938. And what a functional little craft he has. The flush-deck design that was so popular for motoryachts of the day made sense in a little boat like this one, too.It allowed for a tall bow and good freeboard forward, and gave the fisherman a place for protected storage — and refuge from foul weather, if needed. There also was room for barrels, oars and assorted fishing gear.

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The sheer breaks just forward of midships, dropping down to reduce the freeboard in the cockpit and make it easier to haul in the catch. The net is piled up on the boat’s wide after deck, and a bin just ahead of it holds a floating lantern for night fishing on the flats. There’s also a light mounted on the bow.

The fishing pier is just as well set up. There’s a hanging scale to the right and an ice house (with a block of ice just visible) at far left, flanking the middle shed with its wonderful poster. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had been in Miami the month before, setting up at a new venue, the celebrated West Flagler Dog Track, famous for its steam-heated grandstand.

The photo is from the collection of the Farm Security Administration’s Office of War Information, a government project that recorded urban and rural life. It produced a host of famous images while launching the careers of such photojournalists as Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange and others.

November 2013 issue