Friday, June 3, 2016

New Deal Sanitation: Restrooms and Privies

Above: "Los Privados," an oil painting by Pedro Cervantez, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: Sanitary privies being constructed in Chestertown, Maryland, 1936. Between 1935 and 1943, WPA workers constructed over 2.3 million new sanitary privies across the country. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

Above: A WPA poster promoting improved sanitation, image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Some people thought the construction of sanitary privies between 1933 and 1943, by New Deal programs, was funny - or that it indicated that work-relief programs were engaged in useless, unneeded work (these are probably the same type of people who ignore our crumbling infrastructure today). A 1935 report from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) noted: "Some people have found humor in the statistics of sanitary privy construction under the CWA, the Work Division [of FERA] and the Works Progress Administration. These sanitary privies have already resulted in the elimination of much of the surface breeding of hookworm in the South, and have helped immeasurably in the fight against typhus. In the annual report of the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service we find that in 1934 the typhoid fever death rate for the 47 states reporting was 'the lowest ever recorded...'"

Above: A restroom at Swallow Falls State Park, in Maryland, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Between 1933 and 1942, the CCC installed or improved over 16,000 latrines and toilets, making visits to state and national parks a little more convenient and a lot more clean. Photo by Brent McKee.

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