Thursday, March 12, 2015

A New Deal for Maine

(Acadia National Park. To learn about the role of the CCC in developing the park, click here. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.)

In 2012, Maine's Governor Paul LePage told his unemployed constituents, "Get off the couch and get yourself a job." However, Mainers have proven that they're quite willing & able to work when given opportunities instead of pink slips and insinuations of laziness. In fact, many of the infrastructure projects from the New Deal era, often created by formerly unemployed Mainers, still serve the state today. Here are some New Deal facts & figures for the Pine Tree State...

Civil Works Administration (CWA):

In January of 1934, there were over 22,000 formerly-jobless residents of Maine working in the CWA, building or repairing schools, roads, bridges, and more.

(From the "Analysis of Civil Works Program Statistics," 1939, p. 18)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC):

Between 1933 and 1942, 18,300 men from Maine were employed in the CCC. This included about 16,700 junior and veteran enrollees and 1,600 staff. Among their many accomplishments was the protection of 420,000 acres from tree and plant disease.

(From Perry H. Merrill's book, "Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942," 1981, p. 133)

(CCC boys working in Acadia National Park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.)

Public Works Administration (PWA):

By 1939, the PWA had contributed $4.5 million in funding towards 84 infrastructure projects in Maine. In today's dollars, that's about $76 million.

(From "America Builds: The Record of PWA," 1939, p. 284)

National Youth Administration (NYA):

During academic year 1939-1940, 234 schools, colleges, and universities in Maine participated in the NYA program, employing about 2,000 young men and women.

(From the "Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943," 1944, pp. 246-247)

(Eleanor Roosevelt visits the NYA in Quoddy Village, Maine, 1941. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

Public Works of Art Project (PWAP):

Between 1933 and 1934, in Region 1 of the PWAP (Maine and the other New England states), unemployed artists were paid to create 22 sculptures, 51 murals, 150 oil paintings, and 490 poster panels, for use in public buildings and parks.

(From Public Works of Art Project, "Report of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to Federal Emergency Relief Administrator, December 8, 1933 - June 30, 1934," 1934, p. 7)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA):

In February of 1935, 599 college students in Maine 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 $13.6 million to Maine for relief efforts (about $228 million in today's dollars). These efforts included direct cash relief, rural relief projects, and a wide variety of work programs.

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

(The description for this 1934 photograph reads, "FERA Camps for Unemployed Women, Maine." These types of camps offered help (and hope) for many women struggling through the Great Depression. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.) 

Works Progress Administration (WPA):

Between 1935 and 1943, Maine's WPA workers produced 1.9 million articles of clothing; served 2.7 million school lunches; created or improved 1,800 miles of roads; built or improved 232 bridges; installed or improved 4,300 culverts; engaged in 122 projects to build, repair, or improve schools; created or improved 36 parks; installed 53 miles of new water lines; constructed 203,000 linear feet of new airport & airfield runway (the 5th most in the nation); and more.

(From the "Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43," 1946, pp. 134-136)

Post Offices:

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

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