Monday, March 16, 2015

A New Deal for Hawaii

(The state seal of Hawaii, image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Some New Deal facts & figures for the Aloha State...

Public Works Administration (PWA):

By 1939, the PWA had contributed $4.8 million in funding towards 57 infrastructure projects in Hawaii. In today's dollars, that's about $81 million. Three of the these were large waterworks projects at Honolulu, Kauai, and Hilo.

(Sources: "America Builds: The Record of PWA," 1939, p. 285; Work Progress Administration, "Report on Progress of Works Program," October 15, 1936 edition)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC):

Yearly CCC enrollment in Hawaii seems to have averaged around 1,000 to 1,500 men.  Between March 1934 and December 1941, CCC enrollees planted 11.7 million trees in Hawaii; built or maintained 50 miles of firebreaks; created 516 miles of truck, horse, and foot trails; and more.

In recalling the food while in the CCC, one enrollee stated "We had good food. No complaints…We had poi once in a while. We had all kind of food. And we had a Chinese cook. Once in while he used to make Chinese food, but the food was really good, for me...I guess at times, we have rice and maybe stew, or other kind of good meals" (see page 23 of second source below).    

(Sources: Perry H. Merrill, "Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942," 1981, p. 32; Kathryn Ladoulis Urban and Stanley Solamillo, "Civilian Conservation Corps In Hawai`i: Oral Histories of the Haleakalā Camp, Maui," 2011, pp. 23 & 44; Works Progress Administration, "Report on Progress of Works Program," June 30, 1937 edition, pp. 97-99)  

(A lava tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. To read about the activities of the CCC at the park, see "Civilian Conservation Corps at HAVO." Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

(CCC workers on a water & soil conservation project in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii State Archives.)

(A CCC camp in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii State Archives.)

(CCC workers at Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. To read fascinating oral histories of the workers, and learn more information about the CCC in Hawaii, e.g., camp locations, click here. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.) 

(The CCC camp at Haleakala National Park. The National Park service states, "Here at Haleakalā National Park the CCC was engaged in a variety of projects. CCC enrollees removed invasive plants and feral animals such as pigs and goats, constructed the White Hill, Sliding Sands and Halemau'u trails, and built some of the frontcountry structures still used by park employees today." Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA):

In February of 1935, 134 college students at the University of Hawaii were employed in FERA's College Student Aid Program. This was a program "undertaken in order to enable young persons who would not otherwise have been able to do so to continue their education, and thereby reduce the influx of young workers into the labor market" (recall that during the Great Depression there was a large drop in the demand for labor).

Between 1933 and 1935, FERA granted $7.4 million to Hawaii for relief efforts (about $126 million in today's dollars). These efforts likely included direct cash relief, rural relief projects, and a wide variety of work programs.

(Source: "Final Statistical Report of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration," 1942, pp. 64, 103, and 232)

National Youth Administration (NYA):

During academic year 1939-1940, 31 schools and the University of Hawaii were participating in the NYA program, employing 821 students.

During any given month of fiscal year 1942, there were about 296 young men and women working in the NYA's out-of-school work program in Hawaii.

A high school student on the island of Maui described the importance of the NYA program: "A girl of 16 summers, I am of Oriental ancestry. I come from a large family and have six sturdy brothers. We live on a two acre taro farm in a little village called Waihee...Due to the fact that all seven are attending school there was some doubt whether or not I would be able to continue high school and go on to college as I have always wanted to do. The NYA has changed the situation. It has enabled me to see a bright future."

(Sources: Federal Security Agency - War Manpower Commission, "Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943," 1944, pp. 246-247, 254; "National Youth Administration in Hawaii," booklet created by the NYA and published by the Printing Department of McKinley High School, Honolulu, 1938, pp. 19-20)

(Hawaii schools participating in the NYA program. Image from the booklet "National Youth Administration in Hawaii."

("NYA students at work at Farrington High School," Honolulu. Photo from the booklet "National Youth Administration in Hawaii.")

 ("University of Hawaii NYA student working in chemistry laboratory," Honolulu.
Photo from the booklet "National Youth Administration in Hawaii.")

 ("Agriculture Building built by the Maui High School Shop and NYA boys."
Photo from the booklet "National Youth Administration in Hawaii.")

Post Offices:

During the New Deal era, the U.S Treasury built or expanded Post Office buildings in Hawaii and commissioned artists to decorate them. See the Living New Deal's Hawaii pages for examples.

Works Progress Administration (WPA):

Interesting facts and figures about the WPA in Hawaii...

--> During the first four fiscal years (1936 - 1939) WPA laborers in Hawaii worked on 40 projects to build, repair, or improve schools; 139 projects to build, repair, or improve other public buildings; created or improved 77 miles of roadway; constructed or repaired 21 bridges; installed or repaired 100 culverts; made or improved 7 miles of sidewalks; participated in 13 projects to create or improve parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields; installed or improved 49 miles of water lines; renovated about 67,500 books; and more.

--> WPA employment in Hawaii peaked in December of 1936, with about 4,400 men and women on the payrolls.

--> Between September of 1936 and June of 1941 the average number of Hawaii residents working in the WPA was about 2,500. After June 1941, employment dropped off sharply. In fact, between December of 1941 and March of 1943 there were only about 5 people working in the Hawaii WPA, probably performing administrative functions. However, even though there were less WPA workers (i.e, the formerly jobless) on the WPA payroll, WPA funds were still being utilized on a variety of projects, especially national defense-related projects. As Dr. Jason Scott Smith points out, "As it turned to wartime public works, the WPA increasingly discarded its primary method of construction--the "force account," whereby people were put to work directly in order to reduce unemployment--in favor of cost-plus contracting, which emphasized timely production and increasingly turned to private contractors in order to get the job done" (see source list below). This explains why the WPA payroll dropped so sharply even as WPA money continued to fund projects in Hawaii (e.g., air field & military base improvements).

--> The WPA made substantial improvements to a number of airfields, including Hilo Airport, John Rodgers Airport (present-day Honolulu International Airport), Suiter Field (present-day Upolu Airport, near Kona on the Big Island), and Port Allen Airport (on the island of Kauai). The WPA also provided substantial funding for the creation of the Puunene Airport on the island of Maui (now part of the Maui Raceway Park).

(The description for this photograph reads, "Inter-Island Sikorsky being fueled by a Standard Oil truck at John Rodgers Airport, 1937." John Rodgers Airport is now Honolulu International Airport. Between 1935 and 1937, the WPA extended the runways at the airport. Photo courtesy of the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation, Airports Division.)    

--> Total funds expended on WPA projects in Hawaii (i.e., WPA funds + sponsor funds) was $13.9 million. That's about $234 million in today's dollars.

--> Out of the total WPA funding (again, WPA + sponsor), about 46% went towards roadwork, 24% towards work on public buildings, 12% towards airport work, and the remaining 18% towards a variety of other projects.

--> Funding for a landing field on Howland Island--1,700 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii--most likely came from the Hawaii WPA office in Honolulu. The landing field was to be used as a possible trans-Pacific refueling station and also for Amelia Earhart's 1937 attempt to fly around the world (Earhart and her navigator disappeared before reaching Howland Island).

--> In the June 30, 1941 edition of the Federal Works Agency's Report on Progress of the WPA Program (p. 81), we are told that among the WPA's publications are "guides for most of the states and for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico under the American Guide series..." However, while there are indeed guides to Alaska and Puerto Rico, there doesn't appear to be one for Hawaii. This could have been a mistake by the authors of the report, or it could indicate that a guide was intended for Hawaii but was never completed. If the latter, the materials for the guide could be stored away in a dusty corner of an archives. Interestingly, in 2009 author Pat Willard published America Eats! by using materials collected by the WPA writer's program - materials that were intended for a book. The book was never completed and the materials were stored away in various archives across the nation (see "'America Eats': A Hidden Archives from the 1930s," NPR, November 19, 2004). This raises the interesting question: Could there be materials for a Guide to the Aloha State (or, "Aloha Territory" for history sticklers) buried somewhere in the National Archives, Hawaii State Archives, a warehouse, or even someone's attic? Perhaps we'll never know...        

(Sources: State of Hawaii Department of Transportation, Airports Division, "Chronology of Aviation in Hawaii, 1930-1939";  Federal Works Agency, "Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43," 1946; Federal Works Agency, "Report on Progress of the WPA Program," June 30, 1939, June 30, 1940, and June 30, 1941 editions; “Pacific Remote Island Area (PRIA),” Pacific Island Benthic Habitat Mapping Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Ric Gillespie, "Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance," Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2006, pp. 8-18; Jason Scott Smith, "Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933-1956, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 194)

(The description for this photograph reads, "Archives staff and WPA workers on steps of old Archives building." Across the U.S. and its territories, the WPA assisted museums, libraries, and archives. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii State Archives.)

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