Monday, June 9, 2014

A New Deal for Massachusetts

(The description for this 1937 image reads, "'By A.L. Ripley, Lexington Branch Post Office, Boston, MA.' Public Works Administration. Federal Art Project Mural. Paul Revere's Ride." Courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

During the New Deal era, infrastructure was modernized in Massachusetts. For example, WPA workers created or improved 4,193 miles of roadway, engaged in 318 bridge projects, and installed 3,572 culverts. They labored on 316 park projects, 647 playground & athletic field projects, and 57 public pool projects. The WPA also worked on schools, utility plants, waterlines, airports, and more. The WPA's sewing room activities in Massachusetts were particularly voluminous. They were second only to Pennsylvania with respect to the production of clothing for low-income Americans, producing 31 million garments. (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, by the Federal Works Agency, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946, pp. 134-136.)

The Living New Deal has inventoried & mapped many still-existing New Deal projects in Massachusetts, for example, the Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge (Public Works Administration), the Rockport Post Office (U.S. Treasury), and the George Wright Golf Course (Works Progress Administration).

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked in dozens of areas across the state, including Mohawk Trail State Forest, Blue Hills Reservation, Douglas State Forest, and Robinson State Park (see "CCC Work in Massachusetts Forests and Parks"). In these areas, CCC boys planted 12 million trees, engaged in fire prevention work, and eradicated harmful tree insects (e.g., the gypsy moth). The CCC also raised and stocked fish (see, e.g., Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, by Perry H. Merrill, 1981, pp. 137-138).

Many believe that spending & investment during the New Deal era was "wasteful" and a "failure." But is it hypocritical to utilize and enjoy thousands of New Deal creations--decades after they were created--while simultaneously labeling them failures? What do you think?      

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

 (The description for this 1935 image reads, "'Crowds like this join lobbies of Federal Theatres in 21 states, anxious to see plays they could never afford before WPA went into the show business.' Works Progress Aministration. Federal Theatre Project. Boston, MA." Image courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

(A WPA poster promoting an art exhibit in Boston. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

(WPA workers clearing debris after the New England Hurricane of 1938, near Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The WPA helped during and after many natural disasters across the United States--providing food, restoring utilities, assisting in search & rescue operations, fortifying levees, and more. Photo by the WPA.)

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