Monday, September 7, 2015

New Deal Postage Stamps: National Defense

U.S. Coast Guard:

Above (1945 postage stamp): After World War I, America's military began to deteriorate from lack of funding. The situation worsened with the onset of the Great Depression, but New Deal funding changed that. With Public Works Administration (PWA) funds and Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor, America's aging national defense systems were rejuvenated. And these efforts better prepared the nation for the coming global conflict. President Roosevelt noted in 1942: "[The WPA] has added to the national wealth, has repaired the wastage of depression and has strengthened the country to bear the burden of war" (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-1943, 1946, p. v). With respect to the PWA and the Coast Guard, the latter received funding for 18 cutters, 9 patrol boats, and 28 patrol planes. Coast Guard facilities along the nation's shores were improved and the Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut, was enlarged (Federal Works Agency, Millions for Defense, 1940, p. 41). Image from personal collection

Above: The description for this photo (ca. 1933-1940) reads, "In time of war the Coast Guard becomes part of the Navy. Cutters, patrol boats, and planes purchased by the Coast Guard with emergency [PWA] funds are readily convertible for naval uses." Photo courtesy of the Federal Works Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. Army and U.S. Navy:

Above (1940 postage stamp): Between 1935 and 1943, WPA workers renovated and improved Army bases all across the nation. Veterans of the Civilian Conservation Corps quickly became non-commissioned officers in the Army, providing strong leadership during the war. With respect to the Navy, PWA funding between 1933 and 1940 built 2 aircraft carriers, 4 cruisers, 4 heavy destroyers, 16 smaller destroyers, 4 submarines, and 2 gunboats (Federal Works Agency, Millions for Defense, 1940, p. 17). Image from personal collection.

Above: The U.S.S. Selfridge (DD-357). The description for this photo (ca. 1933-1940) reads, "One of twenty destroyers built with PWA funds. The Selfridge assisted in the evacuation of Americans from Europe at the outbreak of the war." Photo courtesy of the Federal Works Agency and the U.S. Navy.

Industry and Agriculture for Defense: 

Above (1940 postage stamp): Through programs like the National Youth Administration, the New Deal trained workers for industry; and through programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps & the Soil Conservation Service, the New Deal improved the nation's agricultural land. Image from personal collection.

Above: The description for this 1939 photo reads, "CCC working with Soil Conservation Service making diversion terrace to prevent gullying, Vernon County, Wisconsin." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Strong National Defense Requires a Strong & Healthy Citizenry:

Above (1940 postage stamp): The Federal Security Agency (FSA), created by President Roosevelt in 1939, worked towards improving the health, education, and financial stability of Americans to, in part, improve national defense. For example, the agency reported that its "Public Health Service was...laying the ground work for a program allied to defense to promote the health and improve the physical fitness of out-of-school young people employed on projects administered by the National Youth Administration" (1940 annual report of the FSA, p. 8). Image from personal collection.

Above: The National Youth Administration (NYA) offered recreation and physical fitness opportunities for its enrollees. This photo shows a champion NYA softball team in Tucson, Arizona, 1937. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the New Deal Network.

The New Deal, Women, and the Defense Industries:

Above: This 1999 postage stamp commemorates the role that American women played during World War II, in the defense industries. Some people might not know that many women died during the war, for example, in armament plant explosions. Probably even fewer know that many Rosie the Riveters (and Wendy the Welders) received training from the NYA - see, e.g., the oral history interviews of Lou Annie Charles and Eva Vassar, at the "Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront Project" (University of California Berkeley). Image from personal collection.

Above: Young women learning to weld in an NYA program at Bethune-Cookman College, Florida, 1943. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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