A Window into New Deal Administration


“Transient Camp” success stories. Courtesy of the Maine State Library.

Recently, Living New Deal Research Associate Andrew Laverdiere discovered a yearbook chronicling the work of the Maine Emergency Relief Administration (MERA) in 1934. Loaded with detailed breakdowns of how relief was administered, the structural organization of the Emergency Relief Administration, and expenditures and returns, Reviewing the ERA in Maine sheds light on the massive mobilization of the New Deal as it functioned in just one state.

More than simple accounting, Reviewing the ERA in Maine tells a human story. Participants in MERA not only built schools, they also taught in them. Mainers gave as much as they got. Indeed, we learn of the program that one of its key aims was to “derive for the public as much value as possible for the money expended.” It is a story of building and repairing communities and citizens alike. One of the more fascinating sections examines how “the Federal Government applied its funds for the care of transients” (pictured here). In exchange for classes, sports programs, and board and lodgings, more than 2000 young, formerly itinerant men constructed trout and salmon ponds and hatcheries. It was argued that “Many only needed the proper diet and simple life of the camps to enable them to once more take their place in the world.” You can find the entire source here.

Gabriel Milner is Project Manager for The Living New Deal. He is a trained cultural historian who teaches courses in U.S. History at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

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