“A Conflux of Desire and Need”: Trees, Boy Scouts, and the Roots of Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps

  • Neil M. Maher
Part of the The World of the Roosevelts book series (WOOROO)


On April 7, 1933, Just two weeks after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) into law, Henry Rich of Alexandria, Virginia became the first American citizen to enroll in the New Deal program. After spending ten days at Fort Washington, an army conditioning camp just outside the nation’s capital, Rich and approximately two-hundred other young men boarded buses and traveled south through Luray, Virginia into nearby George Washington National Forest. After hiking through the forest up to a valley in the Massanutten mountains, the enrollees arrived at a site selected by the United States Forest Service. As dusk settled and the weather grew cold, the men ate a hot meal prepared from a make-shift kitchen and stretched out on the ground with blankets for the night. In the morning, before they began clearing the area of undergrowth and constructing their new living quarters, the young men took a vote and decided to name their camp, the first in the nation, after the president who created the Corps. By week’s end these CCC enrollees had constructed an elaborate wooden sign, ten feet tall by ten feet wide, that announced “Camp Roosevelt” to all visitors.1


Conservation Movement Forestry Work Christmas Tree Simple Life American Mind 
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  1. 3.
    Depression era accounts that link James’s essay to the origin of the CCC include: Captain X, “A Civilian Army in the Woods,” Harpers (March 1934), 487; F.A. Silcox, “Our Adventures in Conservation,” Atlantic Monthly (November 1937), 714; “Conservation: Poor Young Men,” Time, February 6, 1939, 10; and Kenneth Holland and Frank Hill, Youth in the CCC (Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 1942), 16Google Scholar
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© Henry L. Henderson and David B. Woolner 2005

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  • Neil M. Maher

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