“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)

Abstract

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

Keywords

Corn Depression Tuberculosis Lime Manure 

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Notes

  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
  2. William James, “The Moral Equivalent of War,” McClures 35 (1910): 463–68.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    The historiography on the CCC is scant. Scholars who have refrained from examining the ideological origins of the CCC include: John Paige, The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service: An Administrative History (Washington, DC: National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, 1985), 1Google Scholar
  4. Thomas Cox, This Well-Wooded Land: Americans and Their Forests From Colonial Times to the Present (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), 218Google Scholar
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  6. 10.
    A number of environmental historians have called for more scholarship that illustrates the interrelation of environmental, intellectual, and socioeconomic change. See especially, Arthur McEvoy, “Towards an Interactive Theory of Nature and Culture: Ecology, Production, and Cognition in the California Fishing Industry,” Environmental Review 11, no. 4 (Winter 1987): 289–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  9. 14.
    See Samuel Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progressive Conservation Movement, 1890–1920 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959; repr., New York: Atheneum, 1974), 1–4.Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    For a good history of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, see Philip Terrie, Forever Wild: A Cultural History of Wilderness in the Adirondacks (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985; repr., Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994)Google Scholar
  11. 31.
    Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency, 3. Other works on the progressive conservation movement include: Fox, The American Conservation Movement, 107–08; James Penick, Jr., “The Progressives and the Environment: Three Themes from the First Conservation Movement,” in The Progressive Era, Lewis Gould ed. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1974)Google Scholar
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  16. 50.
    Franklin Roosevelt, “Speech Before the American Country Life Conference, Ithaca, August 19, 1931,” Speech File, #437, FDRL. Also see, Franklin Roosevelt, “Back to the Land,” Review of Reviews 84 (October 1931): 63–64.Google Scholar
  17. 51.
    There is quite an extensive literature on back-to-the-land movements during the first half of the twentieth century. See especially, David Shi, The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  18. Paul Conkin, Tomorrow A New World: The New Deal Community Program (Ithaca, New York: American Historical Association, 1959)Google Scholar
  19. 54.
    John Crowe Ransom, “The Aesthetic of Regionalism,” American Review II (January 1934), 306Google Scholar
  20. 55.
    Howard Bishop, Landward I (Spring 1933), 3Google Scholar
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    Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982).Google Scholar
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    On the shift from “coercive moral reform” to “environmentalist reform,” see Paul Boyer, Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820–1920 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978)Google Scholar
  24. 60.
    George Kessler, Report of the Board of Park and Boulevard Commissioners of Kansas City, Missouri (Kansas City: Hudson Kimberely, 1893)Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Henry L. Henderson and David B. Woolner 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil M. Maher

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