The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942:
A New Deal Case Study

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This is the life story of a federal agency. It is also the chronicle of a successful experiment. The plan to put unemployed young men to work on the conservation of natural resources, conceived amid general skepticism in the first fruitful weeks of Franklin Roosevelt's first administration, flourished to become one of the most popular of all the New Deal measures. It was also one of the most successful. During its life span of nine years more than 2.5 million young Americans passed through the Civilian Conservation Corps. In so doing, they benefited both themselves and the nation. These benefits were immediate, obvious, and well distributed. Farmers were assisted by soil erosion camps and by work in reforestation and fire control; local businessmen received an economic boost from their participation in the camp trade. The families of the enrollees were aided by the monthly allotment checks which they received. The youths themselves gained both physically and in outlook from the camp experience. The purpose of this book is first to examine these matters at greater length.

These practical benefits account, to a degree, for the CCC's extraordinary popularity. Even without them, however, the Corps would probably have touched a responsive chord in American hearts. For it appealed to one of the most durable of American folkways, the mystique of the forest. In an age of rapid urbanization, the CCC boys made one think of the frontier. This appeal was, in a sense, nostalgic; the boys re-created the spirit of an heroic age now past. Moreover, in a predominantly pacifist society, perhaps the CCC's military connection had some special meaning for those who still valued martial virtues. These, too, are themes which I have considered.

This book does not pretend to be a comprehensive history of the Civilian Conservation Corps. My concern, primarily, is with the central organization, not the thousands of camps. I have tried to explain how the Corps was developed and operated, I have discussed both its successes and its failures, and I have identified the reasons for its widespread popular appeal. But I have not been able to examine the Corps at the grass-roots level to any great extent. This, therefore, is a history of the Civilian Conservation Corps as seen, in large part, though Washington eyes.

Many people and institutions have aided in the making of this book, and I can mention but a few by name. I must thank, first of all, the Duke University Commonwealth-Studies Center for financing my researches. My greatest academic debt is owed to Dr. Richard L. Watson, Jr., chairman of the History Department at Duke, who first suggested the subject to me, and whose advice, encouragement, and criticism have been the formative factors in this work. Dean Snyder, formerly director of CCC Selection, graciously took the time to discuss aspects of his work with me, while my research would have taken far longer, and been much less enjoyable, had it not been for the constant assistance and attention of Mr. Stanley Brown, National Archives, Washington, and Messrs. Jerry Deyo and Joseph Marshall, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York. To all these gentlemen, I owe my thanks.

My friends and colleagues, Mr. M. W. Raffel, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Dr. M. E. R. Bassett, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Dr. Lynn L. Marshall, University of California at Santa Barbara; and Dr. Bruce L. Clayton, Allegheny College, have each read the manuscript, either whole or in part. Their textual criticisms have been invaluable, while, with great fortitude, they have also acted as sounding boards for my ideas. Mesdames C. van Ginkel and M. Firth, secretaries in the History Department of Victoria University of Wellington, have typed the complete manuscript, saving me much time and tedium. I wish to thank, too, the Editorial Board of the Journal of American History for permitting me to use in Chapter V material which first appeared in that journal as part of an article. My greatest debt is to my wife, Barbara Ann Salmond. She has assisted me in my research, in formulating my ideas, and in setting them on paper. This book is dedicated to her.

All the people mentioned above have helped give this book whatever merit it may possess. For its defects, I alone am responsible.

John Salmond
July, 1966


The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942: A New Deal Case Study
salmond/preface.htm — 03-Jan-2008

Copyright © 1967, Duke University Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher. Any reuse of this information requires permission from the publisher. See for information.