USS Potomac: FDR’s Presidential Yacht

The USS Potomac had an important role in the New Deal. It served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht from 1936 until his death in 1945. The President held many work meetings with his cabinet members. “One frequent visitor was Frances Perkins, the secretary of labor.” Moored in Jack London Square, the yacht is owned and operated today by Ford Roosevelt, the president’s grandson and director of the Association for the Preservation of the Presidential Yacht Potomac. The San Francisco Chronicle published a story about the ship’s history and Ford Roosevelt’s work to preserve it.

USS Potomac, once Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential yacht, moored at en:Jack London Square, Oakland, California, Photo Chris Wood, 2003

Richard Walker Interviewed on Non-Boring History

Dr. Annette Laing, writer of Non-Boring History, spoke with Richard Walker, Director of the Living New Deal about the accomplishments of the New Deal and the New Deal-built infrastructure that has stood the test of time.

“With a team of volunteers across the nation, Dr. Walker documents New Deal buildings, bridges, roads, and even sewer systems that were created under FDR’s New Deal, and are still in use today. The continuing impact of this massive program of public investment in infrastructure is astonishing.”

Read the interview here, or watch the video here

The WPA in and Around Rochester, NY

Drawing on materials at the Monroe County Archives, “The WPA in and Around Rochester, NY” is a class project that seeks to map the legacy of the WPA in Rochester. The project is led by Dr. Mark Rice, professor of American studies at St. John Fisher College, and is part of the course “Archives and Access.” Students analyze WPA archival records and create historical narrative based on their findings.

See the interactive map here and read the project Story Map here.

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The Legacy of the New Deal in The Inglewood, CA Post Office

The Daily Breeze has published a piece on the New Deal-funded bas-reliefs that have enlivened the Inglewood post office since the New Deal era. Read the whole piece here.

A mahogany wood bas-relief by Archibald Garner, entitled “Centinella Springs,” decorates the interior of the Post Office. Four plaster bas-reliefs, depicting a buffalo, bear, ram, and lion, grace the exterior facade.

See the Living New Deal’s record of Inglewood sites.

“Ram” bas-relief by Newell and Peticolas, main post office – Inglewood CA. Photo by Andrew Laverdiere.

Painting the Mail: Post Office Art of the New Deal

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 5pm-6pm PST (8pm EST)
with Barbara Bernstein

The New Deal didn’t just decorate post offices. It celebrated them. Murals, bas reliefs and sculptures depict letters being written, mailed, sorted, transported, delivered, read and shared. These artworks are increasingly imperiled as post offices are sold and repurposed. Barbara Bernstein, the Living New Deal’s Public Art Specialist and founder of the New Deal Art Registry, offers a vision for the reuse of these buildings that preserves both the artworks and the sense of community that post offices can provide. Free. REGISTER

Remembrance: Ruth Gottstein. Ying Lee.

Ruth Gottstein, 1922-2022
A lifelong activist and champion of New Deal art, Ruth Gottstein, daughter of New Deal artist Bernard Zakheim, died on August 30 at age 100. Ruth vividly recalled accompanying her father, a founder of the San Francisco Artists and Writers Union, which lobbied for a federally funded arts program during the Great Depression, to the San Francisco General Strike of 1934. Among Zakheim’s controversial murals, “The Library,” a fresco at San Francisco’s Coit Tower, portrays Ruth as a young girl wearing a sailor suit.
Ruth and her late sister, Masha, advocated for the restoration of the long-neglected Coit Tower murals, produced under the Public Works Administration in 1934. Ruth and her son, Adam, recently saved Zakheim frescoes at the UCSF medical school from demolition. Ruth established Volcano Press, publishing 57 books between 1962 and 2017, many on women’s health and feminism.


Ying Lee, 1932-2022

Activist Ying Lee, an early member of the Living New Deal, died on September 10 at age 90. In her autobiography, “Ying Lee: From Shanghai to Berkeley,” Ying recounted her upbringing as a first-generation Chinese immigrant. Ying taught at Berkeley High for more than two decades and became Berkeley’s first Asian American city council member (1973-78), fighting for rent control and greater diversity on the Council. She worked for Representative Ron Dellums, opposed the Vietnam War and later became active in Grandmothers Against War, in protest of the Iraq War. Ying remained a voice for social and racial justice through her final years.

“She was indomitable presence around Berkeley for decades, active in every good cause,” said Richard Walker, director of the Living New Deal.  “She will be missed.”

Favorite New Deal Site

Tell Us About Your Favorite New Deal Site

Send us a first-person story of 100 (or so) words describing the site and why you chose it. Submissions will appear in future issues of The Fireside! Be sure to include a photo (with photo credit). Send to [email protected]. Thanks!

An East Texas Treasure


CCC men at Caddo Lake State Park. Courtesy, NARA.

In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived at Caddo Lake State Park, a maze of sloughs, bayous and backwaters in Uncertain, Texas, hard by the Louisiana border. Beset by mud, mosquitoes and local political bickering, the men dredged the lake, built roads and trails and constructed the entrances, pavilion, shelters, cabins and campsites using materials harvested from the surrounding parkland. My father took me there on my first fishing trip six or seven years later. We met our guide near the lake. He steered our rowboat through giant bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. The sun was visible only briefly at noon. I came equipped with a cane pole and a bobber. I don’t remember catching any fish that day, but seventy-five years later, Caddo Lake State Park is still my favorite New Deal site.
 
— Milton Jordan, Georgetown, Texas

Mary McLeod Bethune Statue Installed in the Capitol

“Invest in the human soul.
Who knows, it may be a diamond in the rough.”

 
Statue of Mary McLeod Bethune, unveiled at the Capitol on July 13, 2013. Credit: CNN.com.

This famous quote by the educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) is inscribed on the pedestal of her statue, recently installed in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Her statue replaces that of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith. The daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Bethune, founder of the Council of Negro Women, advised multiple US presidents. She was the only woman to serve in FDR’s “Black Cabinet,” and he appointed her to head the New Deal’s National Youth Administration (NYA). The 11-foot marble statue, by the Hispanic sculptor Nilda Comas, depicts Bethune holding a walking stick, a symbol of wise leadership. The walking stick is modeled on the one Bethune received as a gift from President Roosevelt.