“Republic of Detours” Wins New Deal Book Award

Scott Borchert is the winner of the Living New Deal’s first annual New Deal Book Award for his 2021 book about the Federal Writers’ Project, Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The Award Committee called it: “…a beautifully written and timely book, whose ramble through the lives of New Dealers reminds us of what can be accomplished when the federal government supports American artists to create an enduring legacy.”
 
Eric Rauchway, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, and chair of the Award Committee, presented Borchert with a plaque and $1,000 prize at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY at the 18th Annual Roosevelt Reading Festival.
 
Borchert was one of three nominees for the New Deal Book Award who participated in the Reading Festival, along with Mary Jane Appel, biographer of Russell Lee: A Photographer’s Life and Legacy (Liveright Books in association with the Library of Congress), and Greg Zipes, author of Justice and Faith: The Frank Murphy Story (University of Michigan Press). Their books were selected from a dozen submissions, including biographies of New Deal artists, a study of race and resistance, and an assessment of the New Deal’s place in American history.

Submissions are invited for the 2022 New Deal Book Award, due by November 14, 2022.

Video: In Landscape Harmony: New Deal Bridges for the Oregon Coast

Oregon national associate Judith Kenny and videographers Logan Duello and Alex Hilton recently produced a short video on the five Public Works Administration (PWA) bridges that completed the Oregon Coast Highway (Hwy 101). The five bridges serve the southwest coast and are valued by many as spectacular in their beauty as the coast itself.

While the video emphasizes the remarkable design of the bridges, it also places their completion in a story of the long, drawn-out process of the construction of highway access along Oregon’s coast. Despite the campaign to “Lift Oregon out of the Mud” that was launched in 1917, the state’s project budget was spent by 1932 and there were still five broad estuaries or bays left without bridge structures between Newport and Coos Bay. Oregon entered the New Deal era with the most expensive and challenging bridge structures left unbuilt and state-operated ferries the only option for crossing the watery gaps left in the highway.

Among the State’s first requests for PWA funding, federal approval of the $5,600,000 budget for the bridges came in late 1933. Conde McCullough, Oregon’s highway bridge engineer, went to work with his design team to develop beautiful structures that also suited the demanding, local environmental conditions. With final PWA approval of the plans, construction began less than a year after the project’s initial approval. Construction workers completed all five bridges by September 1936.

The impact of the bridges was noted almost immediately. A Newport newspaper reported that the daily traffic on their new Yaquina Bay Bridge equaled the number of cars carried by the state-operated Yaquina Bay ferry in a month. In addition to improvements in local traffic, the Oregon State Highway Department predicted that the sound of tourist traffic across the bridge would resemble the sound of the surf.

Even today, tourists value the access the bridges provide on that nearly one-hundred- mile scenic stretch of coastal highway from Newport to Coos Bay. Their contribution to debates surrounding highway projects and the scenic quality of the coast is noted in the video as well.  Reflecting on the Depression-era bridges, the majority of Oregonians have concluded that the standard has been set, and spectacular scenery merits spectacular design.

Watch: Landscape Harmony: New Deal Bridges for the Oregon Coast by Judith Kenny

“Republic of Detours” Wins New Deal Book Award

Scott Borchert is the winner of the Living New Deal’s first annual New Deal Book Award for his 2021 book about the Federal Writers’ Project, Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The Award Committee called it: “…a beautifully written and timely book, whose ramble through the lives of New Dealers reminds us of what can be accomplished when the federal government supports American artists to create an enduring legacy.”
 
Eric Rauchway, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, and chair of the Award Committee, presented Borchert with a plaque and $1,000 prize at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY at the 18th Annual Roosevelt Reading Festival.
 
Borchert was one of three nominees for the New Deal Book Award who participated in the Reading Festival, along with Mary Jane Appel, biographer of Russell Lee: A Photographer’s Life and Legacy (Liveright Books in association with the Library of Congress), and Greg Zipes, author of Justice and Faith: The Frank Murphy Story (University of Michigan Press). Their books were selected from a dozen submissions, including biographies of New Deal artists, a study of race and resistance, and an assessment of the New Deal’s place in American history.

Submissions are invited for the 2022 New Deal Book Award, due by November 14, 2022.

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

We recently published our 2021 Annual Report. Created by Susan Ives Communications, the report highlights the achievements of our biggest year yet.

You can flip through the interactive version of the annual report on our website.
 
The 90th anniversary of the launch of the New Deal (1933-1942) will soon be upon us. The Living New Deal is planning ways to honor the New Deal’s legacy and its lasting contributions to the nation. Today, when faith in government and elections is being tested, it is more important than ever to reflect upon the immense good the New Deal promisedand deliveredto everyday Americans.
 
In 2023, we hope to produce the fourth in our series of New Deal maps to America’s citiesNew Deal Los Angeles. Our plans also include setting in motion a nationwide network in support of endangered New Deal art. With your help, we will continue to uphold the New Deal as a model for future generations.

Thank you for your ongoing support, which makes our work possible.

Expanding Our Social Media Efforts

The Living New Deal’s social media accounts are thriving, Our Twitter account now has more than 1,000 followers—a key tipping point. Our Facebook friends number over 2,000. “Art is Life” (with 10,000 followers on Facebook) made Living New Deal a featured Instagram site. This steady growth in our social media presence is owing to staffers Brent McKee and Shae Corey.
 
Thanks to our donors, Shae Corey is now on staff and is boosting our social media efforts enormously. Shae also is doing research work, helping to process archival materials gathered over years by Project Founder Gray Brechin. Shae also represented the Living New Deal at the Washington DC annual History Fair, where our print map of the nation’s capital was celebrated. To help keep Shae on the job, please consider a donation to the Living New Deal for Education & Outreach.

Reaching a Major Milepost Mapping the New Deal

The Living New Deal recently added the 17,000th New Deal site to our website! This achievement is testimony to the diligent, unseen work of our volunteer National Associates and staff researchers. Their work is the foundation of everything we do. Find us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Along the way, we’ve discovered some New Deal achievements we weren’t aware of, such as its contributions to the nation’s technological progress.
 
The additions to the website include #16,999, B&O Railroad Locomotive No. 50, the first diesel locomotive built in the United States, which was financed by the Public Works Administration. The PWA’s program to modernize the railroads was hailed at the time as a revolution in rail transport. Even more impressive is site #17,000, the University of Pennsylvania’s Differential Analyzer. Contrary to the misconception that all New Deal relief work was manual labor, this analog computer, built between 1934-35 by the Civil Works Administration and Federal Emergency Relief Administration, was an essential stepping stone to the world’s first digital computer, the ENIAC, built in the same lab a decade later.
 
The New Deal’s imprint was nationwide. We continue to surpass milestones for the number of New Deal discoveries per state, such as in Oregon (200), Kansas (200), Wyoming (250) and Texas (1,000). Shout-outs to Living New Deal team members Judith Kenny in Portland, Oregon; Barbara Pendleton in Kansas City, Kansas; Susan Klein in Fort Worth, Texas; Evan Kalish for his sleuthing in Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico and South Carolina; and Richard Walker for recent discoveries in Arizona and Oregon. Our thanks to Brent McKee, who submitted sites 16,999 and 17,000. And to Elena Ion who does the yeo(wo)man work entering the site data sent to us from everywhere.

History of the District of Columbia’s Recorder of Deeds Building with Peter Sefton

img-20220616-124356666               The Association of the Old Inhabitants hosted a video luncheon talk with Peter Sefton. Sefton discussed the history of the District of Columbia’s Recorder of Deeds Building and its architect Nathan Wyeth.  “Mr. Sefton focuses not only on the historic building and the threats to its preservation but also of the extensive collection of WPA art and murals that adorn the building’s interior. Watch the video here.

Arthur Rothstein’s New Deal-Era Photography Continues to Grace the Walls of Roosevelt House

There’s still time to visit the New Deal photo exhibition, The Great Depression: A Photographic Document.

Vernon Evans, migrant from South Dakota,
near Missoula, Montana. 1936. photo by Arthur Rothstein

In 1976, social documentary photographer Arthur Rothstein created a book proposal titled The Great Depression: A Photographic Document. The outline featured an introduction—President Roosevelt’s entire first inaugural address of March 4, 1933—followed by 15 topical sections headed by excerpts from popular poems and songs and ending with a 1964 interview that Rothstein had recorded with the Archives of American Art.

In this exhibit, we follow Rothstein’s recently rediscovered original book proposal, with minor modifications that bring to light some of his lesser known photo assignments and also illustrate important aspects of the New Deal. All photos are by Rothstein, unless otherwise identified.

This exhibition will remain on the walls at Roosevelt House, 47-49 East 65th Street in Manhattan, through December 17, 2021. *Contact the photographer’s daughter, Dr. Annie Segan [email protected] if you’d like an in-person guided tour (5 visitors per tour, max).

*Before visiting Roosevelt House, everyone MUST complete the Cleared4 Access Process, where they will be required to upload a photo of their vaccination card or a negative test result. The Cleared4 Access Process can be accessed here: https://www.c4wrk.com/7rzQF3LbEJveyqSn8

Beyond Infrastructure

The Fireside—News and Views from The Living New Deal

Beyond Infrastructure

Soil Conservation Service

Soil Conservation Service
A New Deal environmental restoration effort in response to the Dust Bowl.
Photo Credit: Courtesy, National Archives

In overcoming the Great Depression, the New Deal approached national recovery not only through vast public works for which it is best known, but also through the arts, education, conservation and a social safety net. The New Deal’s ambitions extended to providing housing, schools, museums, concert halls, community centers, parks and playgrounds; restoring depleted forests and soils; supporting musicians, writers and artists; and improving literacy, nutrition, public health and safety. More than eighty years after it began, the New Deal has reemerged in a national conversation about America’s future. A Green New Deal, a Civilian Climate Corps; a New Deal for Writers; for Teachers, for Youth, for Labor, for Higher Education, for Women, for Seniors; for Civil Rights—are among the propositions being put forward. Beyond infrastructure, what might a new New Deal include?