Saturday, February 4, 2023

New Deal Comet

Above: The Comet train, of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company. The train was financed with a PWA loan. Its initial passenger service run was between Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. According to the train's Wikipedia page, it ran from 1935 to 1951 (in its later years it ran a more local route around Boston). Photographer and year unknown, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: A photograph of passengers aboard the Comet. A 1935 brochure created by the New York, New Haven and Hartford boasted: "Inside are deep seats of extra width, low, without the need for footrests... indirect lighting... air-conditioning, thermostatically controlled, with the warmed or cooled fresh air entering the car through slots near the ceiling... rubber inserts and insulation to obviate noise and vibration, specially designed shock absorbers... in fact, every device of modern engineering has been employed to make The Comet a thing of grace and beauty... a luxuriously comfortable new-type train." Photo also from the brochure.

Above: A poster advertisement for the Comet, showing the "pencil beam" light used to alert motorists of the Comet's approach. The design of the Comet gave it "an unbelievable rate of acceleration" (David Dietz, "Dawn of the Diesel Age," The Indianapolis Times, September 7, 1935, p. 7). Unknown artist, scanned from a personal copy.

Above: From the New York, New Haven and Hartford's 1935 brochure. Scanned from a personal copy.

Above: The brochure touted the Comet's "Ultra-Modern" design and engineering. Scanned from a personal copy.

Above: The brochure's description of the Comet's speed and safety. Scanned from a personal copy.

Above: Part of a longer article about the Comet, from The Indianapolis Times, September 7, 1935, p. 7. The image seems to highlight the less-polluting nature of the Diesel-electric Comet vs. the traditional smoke-belching steam trains. Image from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Meet the Bay Area Triple C's of Company 978

Unless otherwise noted, all photos, quotes, and information are from: Civilian Conservation Corps, Official Annual, Ninth Corps Area, Medford District, 1938 (most likely published by Direct Advertising Co., Baton Rouge, Louisiana).

Above (L to R): Ralph Zamacona, Richard K. Heronaka, and William P. Thomas, of CCC Company 978, Mount Shasta Side Camp, California, ca. 1938. Ralph Zamacona was born in 1919 and died in San Francisco in 2012. See his photo and biography, "Ralph Zamacona," Find a Grave (accessed 1-29-2023).

Above: A larger group of CCC enrollees from Company 978, at the main camp, "Camp Sims," near Castella, California, ca. 1938. "Company 978 has been a Bay Area outfit since its formation, over three-quarters of its personnel at all times calling San Francisco, Oakland and surrounding cities home."

Above: A graphic showing the general location of Camp Sims.

Above: Recreation at Camp Sims.

Above: Healthcare at Camp Sims - the infirmary. "Our safety record is outstanding and is jealously guarded by the boys... no enrollee has suffered a major injury on the work project or in camp."

Above: Perhaps the most important people at Camp Sims - the providers of food!

Above: Drivers at Camp Sims, ready to take their fellow CCC men to work sites or forest fires.

Above: Jordan G. Thompson, Senior Leader of Company 978. Normally, CCC enrollees served 6 months to 2 years. Some could serve longer, for example, skilled cooks. Others, like Jordan Thompson, showed "an aptitude [and] were advanced to leaders and assistant leaders at a higher rate of pay, which was $36 [per month] for assistant leaders and $45 for leaders" (Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, p. 11). Thompson served in the CCC from May 1933 to 1938, and perhaps longer.

Above: Among the accomplishments of Company 978 were: "Construction Sacto River steel bridge at Camp Sims, construction Sims lookout and road, construction Bradley lookout and road, Sugar Loaf lookout and road, improvement Toll House road to Trinity County, construction Everett Memorial Highway on Mt. Shasta, fire trail construction Northern Shasta and Eastern Trinity Counties."

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

New Deal Art: "September" by Maurice Robert Dey

Above: "September," a woodcut print by Maurice Robert Dey (ca. 1899-1981), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, between 1935 and 1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Meet the African American, Triple-C Firefighters of the Los Angeles District

The following photos and quotes come from: Civilian Conservation Corps, Official Annual, 1938, Ninth Corps Area, Los Angeles District (Direct Advertising Company, Baton Rouge, Louisiana). Used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: These are some of the enrollees of CCC Company 2923, Camp F-164, Elsinore, California.

Above: A closer view of some of the enrollees of Company 2923 (from the previous photo).

Above: Company 2923 was known for its firefighting skills. Among their strategies was to use homing pigeons to carry messages back and forth, from their base camp to the fire lines.

Above: A member of Company 2923 mans the radio station.

Above: The buglers of Company 2923. These two men would play reveille, to start the day's activities.

Above: Musical instruments were also used for recreation. These young men are from CCC Company 2924, Camp P-233, Jamul, California. The work projects of Company 2924 included, "road construction, telephone line construction, and, of course, the inevitable fire fighting... Company 2924 has built up an enviable reputation as fire fighters" (p. 93).

Above: These two men are also part of Company 2924. While in the CCC, enrollees could learn many skills and trades.

Above: This is the basketball team of CCC Company 2925, Camp F-364, Wheeler Springs, California. Company 2925 "proved to be expert 'trail blazers' when they performed, with great skill, the hazardous task of building the first truck trails on Santa Rosa Mountain and Forbes Ranch" (p. 95). Among other things, truck trails facilitated quicker response to wildfires.

Above: This is the CCC headquarters for the Los Angeles District. The building was at 6001 Van Nuys Boulevard, and was formerly the Robert Morton Company, which made pipe organs (see this Valley Relics Museum Facebook post). It appears that the building has since been demolished.

Monday, August 15, 2022

The incredible works of New Deal artist Perkins Harnly

The following artworks are by Perkins Harnly (1901-1986). Harnly created these for the  Index of American Design - a WPA project that lasted from 1935-1942. The images come from the National Gallery of Art (NGA) and are in the public domain. (For more information on this WPA project--which created over 18,000 works of art--see the NGA summary, "Index of American Design.")

Above: "Backdrop for Vaudeville Stage"

Above: "Barn Gangway"

Above: "Bedroom, 1940"

Above: "Blacksmith Shop"

Above: "Dentist's Operating Room"

Above: "Fire Station"

Above: "Millinery Shop"

Above: "Monument Display Room"

Above: "Rural Kitchen"

Above: "Veranda"

"I started drawing at the age of seven. A pencil drawing, I did pictures of turkeys and the pilgrims going to church with a gun over their shoulder, stuff like that. Of course it was very crude. I still have some of those things. But I did not develop into an artist of any note until I got on the WPA. They really - because they gave me the reason and the encouragement, the research, the material... I really went to town."

--Perkins Harnly, Oral History Interview, October 15, 1981, Smithsonian Archives of American Art

Friday, August 12, 2022

New Deal Art: A San Antonio Church by Gisella Loeffler

Above: This is a watercolor painting of a San Antonio church, created by Gisella Loeffler (ca. 1900-1977), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Loeffler was a very diverse artist, creating batik (dye on fabric), hospital murals, "tapestries, cabinet and window decorations... She illustrated several childrens books, designed greeting cards and constructed toys..." Loeffler also painted airplanes during World War II ("Long-time resident artist dies," The Taos News (Taos, New Mexico), September 15, 1977, p. 3). Image above courtesy of the General Services Administration and the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Interesting examples of integration in the Civilian Conservation Corps, from Arizona

Above: All of the photos in this blog post come from the CCC Official Annual, 1936, 8th Corps Area, Tucson District. The annual was put together by the Direct Advertising Company, the Ramires-Jones Printing Company, and the Shreveport Engraving Company (all from Louisiana). All photos used here are for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Kitchen staff of CCC Company 2848, Camp SCS-7-A, Bowie, Arizona. CCC enrollees rotated in and out of kitchen duty - although some of them were trained to be long-term cooks (see Manuel R. Martinez's recollection below).

Above: Some of the members of CCC Company 2881, Camp SCS-14-A, San Simon, Arizona. "The project work of the company is part of the Gila River conservation program... The chief aim is to control the disastrous flood waters... and to reclaim to grazing and farming use the once fertile and beautiful San Simon Valley" (p. 31 of the CCC Annual).

Above: A closer view of some of the members of Company 2881, from the previous photo.

Above: The baseball team of Company 2881 (see previous two photos). Recreation was an important part of life in the CCC.

Above: Some of the members of CCC Company 1826, Camp F-30-A, Tucson, Arizona. This company consisted of World War I veterans and, among their many varied projects, was extensive firefighting.

Above: Part of CCC Company 2851, Camp SP-10-A, Vail, Arizona. "The company has been fortunate in having one of the most interesting work projects in the state - the exploration and development of Colossal Cave" (p. 51 of the CCC Annual).

Above: The baseball team of Company 2851 (see previous photo).

Above: Members of Company 2851 (see previous two photos), posing with what appears to be a basketball trophy.

Above: Members of Company 2862, Camp SP-11-A, Tucson, Arizona. "This company has an interesting history in the fact that there has never been an accident of any description during its whole operation. In addition, the company has never had a desertion, or what is commonly known as 'going over the hill'" (p. 55 of the CCC Annual).

Integration in the CCC was not unheard of (as the examples above show)

Depending on a variety of circumstances, for example, the customs of the state or local communities, a CCC camp could be segregated or integrated. And even integrated camps might have had segregated barracks, as one enrollee recalled: "There were twenty negroes, who had their own segregated barracks, but we all worked together" (Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, p. 70).

In the CCC, young men could learn to live, work, and cooperate with people from different backgrounds, as these two recollections highlight:

Manuel Gomez (unknown camp location): "We lived with boys from farms, cities and small towns; every nationality and most religious denominations were represented in our camp... We had blacks in our camp - this was before integration was accepted in our country. I got to know these boys in work and play and realized that discrimination had no place in our world" (Merrill, p. 56).

Manuel R. Martinez (CCC camp in Colorado): "After three months of planting trees, grass, contour plowing, I was sent to a cook and bakery school for instruction... Very soon I was made a first cook and promoted to Mess Sergeant, which is why my tour of duty lasted for four years... Our camp had a mixture of Latins, colored and a company of enrollees from Boston, a real hodgepodge. I am over 62 and consider the CCC the happiest period of my life..." (Merrill, p. 75).

In modern times, America has refused to create a new CCC, where urban, suburban, and rural youth can live and work together in camaraderie - where they can get to know each other, and realize that we're all human beings with the same emotions and aspirations. On the other hand, we have built plenty of prisons for wayward young (and older) adults. And in these prisons, gangs have been created. Indeed, many of the gangs that cause problems on our streets sprang from prisons, where inmates joined together for protection from other groups.

If you want to know why there are so many problems of gangs, violence, youth unemployment, white supremacy, etc., consider the CCC vs. prisons dichotomy. Consider whether is is best to invest on the front-end of things (for example, the CCC), or on the back-end of things (for example, prisons).

"I have thought over and over that we should have a program of [the CCC and National Youth Administration] sort during this current period when youngsters are joining gangs and buying guns and all this sort of thing... I think they were extremely valuable programs. And I think we should have them in any situation where the social condition is deteriorated."

--Anne Treadwell, Director of the National Youth Administration in California (1935-1939), in a 1996 oral history interview.