Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
2023 is the 90th anniversary of the New Deal. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in as president on March 4, 1933, and in his speech reassured Americans with the famous line: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance” The next 100 days were filled with legislation to help the devastated economy - which had a 25% unemployment rate - - and put Americans to work to feed, clothe and house their families, and build and improve many aspects of the environment. One of the first programs that still impacts us as paddlers and campers and hikers was the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps on March 31, 1933. The CCC employed young men ages 18-25 to plant billions of trees, restore the damaged lands in the Dust Bowl, fight fires, control erosion, assist with disaster relief, build new state parks, and improve national parks. Eventually over 3 million men were employed - $25 of their $30 monthly stipends were automatically sent home to their families to support them -- and their efforts persist today. You have probably paddled or camped or fished in a site that was improved by the CCC. At the national parks you have probably visited headquarters buildings, used the roads, hiked the trails, stayed in lodgings or campgrounds, forded bridges, and visited rest rooms and other facilities that were constructed by CCC labor; 800 state parks were also created or improved by the CCC as well as historic battlefields and military sites. The CCC programs contributed to the founding of the modern environmental movement.

So I would like to hear from you about your experience with CCC sites, or if you know about family or friends who served with the CCC. The CCC worked in every one of the then 48 states, and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. If you want to check about a site and whether it was built by the CCC or some other New Deal program, the most complete list for every state is You can also look at the Living New Deal website, and find the interactive map which has over 17,000 sites listed with a section on CCC Camps and parks:: I would like to write an article about this topic for our journal or post something on the website, depending on what material is available.

By the way, another New Deal program that is probably very familiar to many members of the WCHA came two years later - the Social Security Act of August 1935. If you or family members are getting Social Security benefits, or ever collected unemployment benefits or know a widow/er with children who got financial aid, or know a disabled person receiving benefits, it is due to that legislation. Many public buildings that you may visit regularly such as post offices, schools, court houses, hospitals, or airport terminals, were paid for by New Deal programs, such as the WPA, starting 90 years ago and employing millions of workers. And if you noticed murals in any of those buildings, they were painted by artists employed by the Federal Art Project. The New Deal is still all around us. Thanks for your help.

Deborah Gardner,,
WCHA Board member and filmmaker,

The Boat Connects the People: An Interview With Tom MacKenzie ( 2022)
and the award winning film (2015), Contemporary Canoe Builders and Their Work
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