In 1939 the Federal Art Program Poster Division utilized a revolutionary printing process to produce a historic calendar. 78 years later the calendar dates are the same. Presenting a timely opportunity to enjoy a years worth of New Deal American art once again.
1939 Federal Art Project Calendar
At times New Deal research will go off in unexpected directions such as the Federal Art Project (FAP) administered by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Because several CCC artists would later find employment with other government art programs searching selected records from these federal agencies can provide a better understanding of an artists journey.
On a recent trip to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland multiple boxes were requested from WPA Record Group 69. Midway through a container labeled FAP State Offices New York was a folder marked 1939 FAP. Inside this archival envelope were original poster prints from a FAP calendar for 1939; considering their age the paper stock was still firm and the images remained bold and impressive.
A revolutionary new silk screened process, designed by a WPA artist, was used for these poster prints. Enabling mass production with results considered, in the 1930’s, to be technically superior and artistically pleasing.
A quick check revealed that the calendar dates for 1939 are the same for 2017. How fortunate to find these vintage 78 year-old federal art prints and how fitting to revitalize these images for another years use.
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. During 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.
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.
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.
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).