Living New Deal Fund Drive

Lovers' Leap

Lovers' Leap
We’re celebrating our double-your-money challenge grant!  Source
Photo Credit: Seth Gaines United States Postal Service

The Living New Deal Project needs your help to keep going.  Our goal is to raise $100,000 to cover our yearly expenses (data entry, website, events, newsletters, maps, etc.) and to keep expanding our activities.  The project is snowballing in terms of site submissions, volunteers around the country, and public recognition; and we have some important new initiatives, such as hand-held New Deal maps of New York, Washington, DC and San Francisco, a New Deal film archive and festival, and a National New Deal Preservation Conference.  We depend on hundreds of supporters to provide the wherewithal.

Thanks to the generosity of one of our board members, we have a grant that will double-match all contributions up to a total of $25,000 (=$75,000).  That means a contribution of $100 becomes $300!  Last year, our donors gave over $22,000, which yielded $66,000 for the Living New Deal budget (and we raised another $20,ooo from a university grant). For information on how to give, see our Donation Page.

When Louis Kahn and Roosevelt Created a New Jersey Utopia

Author Perdita Buchan has written a lovely encomium to Louis Kahn’s modernist houses set in the New Town of Jersey Homesteads (now Roosevelt) created by the New Deal’s Resettlement Administration.  Along the way she extolls Kahn’s design for the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, New York City, built after the architect’s death.  She also salutes the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt embodied in both the utopian ideals of the greenbelt towns and the Four Freedoms enumerated in his inaugural address of 1941.  Here is the full story in Curbed.Com.

Louis Kahn house at Roosevelt, NJ

Louis Kahn house at Roosevelt, NJ
Louis Kahn house at Roosevelt, NJ  Source
Photo Credit: unknown

The Roosevelts Visit the Kaiser Shipyards During WWII

Eleanor Roosevelt visits Kaiser-Permanente northern hospital

Eleanor-Roosevelt-visits-Vancouver-Hospital-April-5-1943, 1943
Eleanor Roosevelt visits Kaiser-Permanente northern hospital  Source

Thanks to Lincoln Cushing at the Kaiser-Permanente archives, we discovered that FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt both visited the Kaiser shipyards on the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington during the Second World War.  Kaiser’s shipyards cranked out merchant ships to support the war effort at an unprecedented rate, using mass production techniques, and his wartime industries employed upwards of 250,000 people as a whole.  Henry Kaiser was one of the largest and most innovative industrialists of his era, and one of the few who supported FDR and the New Deal.  For the stories of Franklin ‘stealth’ visit and Eleanor’s very public one, which included the northern hospital or the revolutionary Kaiser-Permanente health system, then in its infancy, see the KP history website here and here.

Mapping New Deal New York and Washington, DC

The Living New Deal is currently engaged in a major effort to expand our coverage of New Deal sites in and around Washington and New York City.  Because these are two central places in the national consciousness, they are key to educating the American people about the legacy of the New Deal and its public works.  LND Research Associates, Brent McKee and Evan Kalish, are hard at work in the National Archives, digging up data on WPA, PWA, FAP and other projects in their respective cities (Brent is our Mid-Atlantic Research Director and Evan is New York Research Director).  They have uncovered some veins of pure gold in terms of detailed tables, photographs and other archival goodies.  Here are our stalwarts  at work, when Gray Brechin visited and joined in the fun recently.

Brent & Evan at the National Archives

Brent & Evan at the National Archives, 2014
Brent & Evan at the National Archives
Photo Credit: Gray Brechin Creative Commons

Brent at the National Archives

Brent McKee, 2014
Brent at the National Archives
Photo Credit: Gray Brechin Commons

Ken Burns’ Roosevelt Documentary to Air in September

America’s greatest documentarian, Ken Burns, has finally turned his camera toward two of America’s greatest presidents and their remarkable family.  The Roosevelts: An Intimate History is a seven part, fourteen hour long reflection on the Teddy Roosevelt (TR), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), Sara and Eleanor Roosevelt and others of this old, aristocratic clan from the Hudson River Valley who had such a revolutionary impact on US politics.

Burns Roosevelt documentary publicity photo

Burns Roosevelt documentary publicity photo
Lead publicity photo from  Source

TR was president during the Progressive Era at the dawn of the 20th century, acting both as a reformer battling Big Business and an ardent imperialist.  FDR was president in the darkest hours of  the Great Depression and Second World War, and his New Deal gave the country hope and reignited the economy after disastrous shrinkage and mass unemployment under Republican President Herbert Hoover.  The Progressives, New Deal and wartime mobilization all brought major expansions of American government, democratic participation, and public investment. Eleanor, an active and outspoken First Lady to FDR, perhaps most clearly embodied the ethical spirit behind Rooseveltian reforms, and she became a hero to American women of the time.

FDR at CCC camp, Shenandoah Park

FDR at CCC Camp, Shenandoah Park, 1933
FDR at CCC camp, Shenandoah Park
Photo Credit: Harpers Ferry, National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection

The Roosevelts will air for a week, from Sunday through Saturday, September 14-20, 2014, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS stations across the country (repeated 10-12 p.m.).  Episodes 4 and 5, on September 17th and 18th, are especially important from our point of view, as they deal directly with the New Deal, whose legacy The Living New Deal is busy recovering.  It is a great reminder of what American democracy and the American people can achieve under even the direst of circumstances – food for thought in our present difficult times of poor economic performance, vexatious politics and alienation from government.

The official website of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History has all the relevant information about airtimes and a set of Study Guides for further education of interested viewers.   PBS stations will stream the series in its entirety after the initial September showing.

Why Don't They Make Democrats Like They Used To?

Why Don't They Make Democrats Like They Used To?, 2003
Why Don’t They Make Democrats Like They Used To?  SourceTime Magazine Cover



The CCC at Blue Hills Reservation, Massachusetts

Built by the CCC

Eliot Tower at Blue Hills MA-Kevin Gillis
Built by the CCC
Photo Credit: Kevin Gillis

Kevin Gillis, a student at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, recently discovered that his grandfather worked as a CCC boy in the Blue Hills Camp near Boston, building trails in what is one of the Boston area’s most popular parks.  He also found that there is a woeful absence of signage indicating the presence of the  Civilian Conservation Corps in Blue Hills Reservation. Here is Kevin’s report, sent to us by Sam Redman, our New England Research Director.   CCC Camp Blue Hills


Some CCC Boys Who Went on to Bigger Things

CCC notable alumni

We just discovered this list of famous men who passed through the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s on there way to notable careers.  Mike Toomey of The Friends Of Massachusetts State Forest and Parks Network alerted us to this list and to the fact that they just held an 80th anniversary celebration of the CCC in Massachusetts state parks, and some of the local CCC alumni showed up, still looking fit.  The event was reported on in a story in the Milford Daily News (the photo below is from that story).  Mike also wanted us to note the list of CCC camps in Massachusetts, which is part of a larger resource on CCC camps across the country posted on the website of group “CCC Legacy”.  Alas, the Living New Deal hasn’t yet had the person-power to transfer all that valuable information into our archive and map — any volunteers??!

Tracking Down WPA National Park Posters

1938 Grand Teton original serigraph - first design

1938 Grand Teton original serigraph - first design produced, 1938 (year poster created)
1938 Grand Teton National Park poster – WPA  Source
Photo Credit: unknown - probably Doug Leen

Doug Leen, a former ranger at Grand Teton National Park, took an interesting an old poster being thrown out and it led him to rediscover the source of that poster, and 14 others, created by the WPA to advertise the National Parks. It also led to Berkeley and the University of California, where Glen Martin of California Magazine picked up the story…

“So he researched his find, and found that it was one of a series of 14 posters commissioned by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration from 1938 to 1941 to promote the nation’s national parks. All the posters were produced by unemployed artists hired by the WPA, and all were created in a facility on the UC Berkeley campus known as the Western Museums Laboratories. No more than a hundred posters were printed—mostly by silk-screening—for each park.”

Doug went on to dig up originals of 12 of the 14 posters, and only the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota are still missing. Doug’s collection is on view at POSTERity, the current exhibit at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Museum in Washington, DC.

Maybe YOU have a copy of one of the missing posters? If so, let Doug Leen know.

The full story, by Glen Martin, is online here at California Magazine or you can download it here. POSTERity

P.S.  We were just alerted that National Public Radio also did a story by Brian Naylor on the POSTERity show and Doug Leen, as well as a bit on Morning Edition, which you can find here on the NPR website.

Living New Deal California Salons

John Marshall Jr. High, Pasadena CAWith a grant from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the Living New Deal will host a series of public conversations about the legacy of the New Deal. The five salons will be held at cultural institutions throughout California. New Deal scholars Harvey Smith, Gray Brechin, and Alex Tarr will discuss the Living New Deal’s ongoing efforts to document New Deal sites and record oral histories of those whose lives were touched by the New Deal. Please join us!

Huntington Library

MAY 28, 2014


Long Beach Museum of Art

MAY 29, 2014




San Diego History Center

JUNE 2, 2014


Sacramento Historical Society

JUNE 24, 2014


…and more coming soon!

Canada’s Raw Deal

Harvey Smith recently came across an article on the Canadian Broadcasting System’s history/learning website, Le Canada, about the Tory alternative to FDR’s New Deal during the early years of the Great Depression:  involuntary work camps for  unemployed men.

R.B.Bennett Prime Minister of Canada, 1930-35

Prime Minister R. B. Bennett
Prime Minister of Canada, 1930-35

Such men  posed a threat of popular rebellion  in the mind of the conservatives of the time.  As one veteran of the camps put it, “The Tory government of R.B. Bennett had decided a role for the single unemployed. They were to be hidden away to become forgotten men, the forgotten generation.”Fortunately, that government was voted out in 1935 and the camps were abolished.