The C.C.C. Origins and Labor Secretary Frances Perkins

“Mr. President, we haven’t got an
employment service … Make One, Create One.”

New Agency, New Forms – Origin of CCC Individual Enrollment Records

As the CCC Individual Enrollment Records are being digitized the backstory of White House discussions addressing the recruiting, accounting and fundamentals of establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) are legendary.  By establishing this new government agency, which provided jobs for millions between 1933 – 1942, a collection and variety of forms, regulations, and reports were generated. These documents are a part of our national story, a record filled with questions answered by millions who were touched by hardship and need between 1933 – 1942.
By digitizing these CCC records and making them freely accessible another catalog of New Deal history will be open for research, insight and education before the end of 2024, I’m told.
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“Mr. President, we haven’t got an
employment service.”

1933-April 10 - Rutland Daily Herald -Secretary Perkins announces enrollments in CCC will begin at local relief offices. Francis Perkins, Secretary of Labor likened President Franklin Roosevelt’s method of getting things done,
“to put dynamite under the people who had to do the job and let them fumble for their own methods… This great brainstorm about giving the unemployed relief by taking them out into the woods to do forestry work. I first heard this from the mouth of Franklin Roosevelt, without any preparation at all . . . I thought it was a pipe dream . . . He thought you could just take everybody who was applying for relief and put them in the forests . . . He just thought of all the unemployed, not just of the young men. The young men were my idea later . . . ”

I said “how are you going to recruit? If you are going to pay them money, how are you going to get them:.” He said “Use your employment service” I said “Mr. President, we haven’t got an employment service.” . . . He said “Make one. Create one.”

Which she did.
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On April 5,1933 Executive Order No. 6101, issued by the President, set in motion a new government agency, originally called the Emergency Conservation Works (ECW), but better known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
As Secretary of Labor, Perkins was in the rooms where it happened. Her vivid recollections, from the first 100 days of FDR’s first administration, describe the genesis of the CCC and the vital role played by the Departments of Labor, War and other government agencies. There was a remarkable coming together of government agencies to devise and  implement a system, as mandated by FDR, which allowed for the inductions and placement of over 250,000 junior CCC recruits in yet-to-be organized reforestation camps by early summer of 1933.

Local relief offices were swamped with applicants, in some cities they were told to return; forms and guidelines had not arrived from DC.
The Army, in anticipation of the CCC program, was prepared with new regulations dividing the country into nine Corps areas for administrative purposes. Upon induction, either at the camp or Army recruitment center, new enrollees were examined, swore to the Oath of Enrollment, assigned a CCC company, fed, clothed and transported to their  newly organized reforestation camp until the end of the first enrollment period, September 30th. or later.
Details documented in the CCC Individual Enrollment Records.

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Presidents Birthday Ball – Eradicating Polio

“No single agency, whether it be the doctor, the hospital or the research laboratory, can cope individually with this great problem; we can do it only by joining our efforts.” FDR 1936

On January 30, 1934, a majestic full moon illuminated the winter sky from Campobello Island to Hawaii and Alaska to the Virgin Islands. A stimulating setting for the young and old, the rich and poor, all those who came out, en masse, in formal and informal attire to attend the first of the Presidents Birthday Balls.

FDR Library and Museum

During one of the cruelest periods of the Great Depression, the social elite and the average citizen would gather, nation-wide, from coast to coast and border to border for a noble purpose. One that honored the new president, but also created an endowment through which the Georgia Warms Springs Foundation could battle a decades old scourge, polio.

In the White House that evening President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who was in the first year of his administration as the 32nd US President, was surrounded by an intimate group of friends and family. Together they celebrated his fifty-second birthday, but this birthday and how it would be honored in the years to come, would be different.

The Birmingham News, 1/30/1934

In 1934, the mineral-charged waters of Warm Springs, Georgia worked a magic spell over those who suffered from the disease. The hope then was buoyed by the idea that celebrating the presidents birthday, in a fund raising way, might create a permanent legacy to treat as many patients as the natural thermal springs could accommodate and hopefully find a cure.

What began as parties to benefit the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation would, decades later, result in the creation of an effective inoculation, one that could eliminate the disease of poliomyelitis, thereby benefiting millions all over the world.

Radio Introduction Interrupted

Having fundraising “birthday balls” came at the suggestion of Col. Henry L. Doherty, business magnate and political ally of FDR’s.  Doherty made a $25,000 donation to launch the National Committee for Birthday Balls and became its first chairman. Doherty would also recommend that the president make a live radio address with a personal message of thanks; a broadcast that would be heard in the auditoriums, ballrooms, halls and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps hosting the celebrations. As the national committee chairman, Doherty, would have the distinct honor of introducing the president over the airwaves. This radio announcement would not be without some pre-broadcast drama.

Shortly before stepping up to the microphone Doherty was unexpectedly interrupted, a “process server” strode forward and served  him with legal papers, a summons regarding a lawsuit filed the previous July. This intrusion appears to have had no adverse effect on the mission to introduce the president, and Doherty, who was no stranger to lawsuits, would continue as the National Committee for Birthday Balls chairmen.

Radio Brought the President to the Party

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Frances Perkins – Architect of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Long before Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd US president on March 4, 1933, the administrative and ideological attitudes of FDR and Frances Perkins had intersected, melded and seemingly became one.

Architect of the Civilian Conservation Corps  Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins, (April 10, 1880 – May 14, 1965)       Courtesy of the Frances Perkins Center

The professional partnership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Frances Perkins was strengthened during Roosevelt’s 1929 – 1932 term as governor of New York. Recognizing Perkins understanding and grasp of complex government policies he appointed her Commissioner of New York State Industrial Commission. In this position Perkins supervised the health and safety of state workers; an appointment she managed with little difficulty. As a seasoned social worker, activist for public works, child labor, unemployment insurance, and workers’ rights advocate Perkins was able to tutor the then governor on the concept of “social insurance”.

First Woman Secretary of Labor

When FDR became President he selected “Miss Perkins” to be Secretary of Labor; the first woman ever appointed to a US cabinet position. Her tenure, as one of his closest and trusted advisers, would span FDR’s entire four term administration. A unique position which allowed her to observe, assist and analyze “the most complicated human being I ever knew.”

Theirs was a remarkable collaboration; one which empowered Perkins to frame and develop several of FDR’s New Deal programs and policies, among them the first and most successful, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

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Remembering the New Deal

“Above All, Try Something” President Franklin Roosevelt

National New Deal Preservation Association (NNDPA)

August 2016 – I have been honored by and readily accepted an invitation from the National New Deal Preservation Association (NNDPA) to join their board.

As a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) researcher and author I am excited to be associated with the NNDPA, an organization whose goal is: to promote the identification, documentation, preservation and education of the Great Depression New Deal visual and performing arts, literature, crafts, structures and environmental projects and programs.

The New Deal – What and When?

It was the Great Depression – America was in the midst of an economic and environmental cataclysm previously unknown in its history.
FDR1933During the 1932 presidential campaign Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) addressed the grinding despair by promising “a new deal for the American people.”

It wasn’t until after his March 1934 inauguration that the true depth of the unemployment, hunger, homelessness and poverty was truly documented. President Roosevelt was facing an unprecedented national emergency; massive in size and scope.

Our Job With The WPA -Workers Handbook - Harry Hopkins Administrator
Our Job With The WPA -Workers Handbook – Harry Hopkins Administrator

These were uncharted waters, the programs and ideas FDR would authorize in an effort to address this crisis were experimental and untested. Boldly stating “Above All Try Something” best describes the New Deal and what he could offer a struggling nation.

Lasting from 1933 – 1943, the numerous and varied New Deal programs, policies and work projects forever changed and bolstered a struggling nation. Over eighty years later we continue to benefit from these remarkable accomplishments.

What Were the New Deal Programs?

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Memo “Coordinate the Plans”

It was the fourth year of the Great Depression. The unemployment spiral continued downwards, millions were jobless. There was a feeling of hopelessness; especially among a young and untried generation. Something needed to be done . . . and quickly.

 

StLouis_NARA_CCC-Harold Ickes_Records

By the 5th day of his first term, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), 32nd US President was setting in motion what is now recognized as the “single greatest conservation program in American history”.   The Civilian Conservation Corps – CCC . It would become the first and most successful of the New Deal work programs.

By the 1oth day FDR signed four memos with a simple directive – “coordinate the plans”. The memos were addressed to members of his cabinet. George H. Dern, Secretary of War, Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of Interior 1933-1946, Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture and Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor 1933-1945.

This historic memo gave the four cabinets members powerful authority and a daunting task . . . they were to investigate and draft legislation which would allow the immediately implementation the first of the New Deal work programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

So much was riding on this untried idea.
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