Notes from the Archives: New Deal Newsletters

by Nancy Noble, MHS archivist/cataloger

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, age 17-23. One of these camps was located in Princeton, Maine: Company 192.

We recently received a wonderful newsletter, the Far East Forester, which gives evidence to this period of time. The library owns v. 1, no. 12 (Feb. 21, 1935); v. 2, no. 11 (August 1, 1935); v. 4, no. 7 (June 1936); v. 4, no. 9 (August 1936), enough to give us a picture of camp life.

Advertising itself as “The most eastern camp in the United States,” the newsletter includes poetry, “hospital notes,’ “kitchen kolum,” “Far East Liars’ Club, and “Barracks two news.” This newsletter is a nice complement to a small manuscript collection (Coll. S-5669), which includes printed and materials which belonged to Clifton E. Foss of Manset, Maine, who was at the Princeton Camp until 1942, when he was discharged.

The Far East Forester is reminiscent of other similar newsletters for Quoddy Village, which was built to house and support workers for the federally funded Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project. After the project ended in the mid-1930s, the village was used by the National Youth Administration and then as a military training base during World War II. The newsletter published by the Junior Workers of Quoddy Village, The Pioneer, was published around 1937, and a later newsletter, The Eagle, also published by the “Quoddy youth” was published around 1938-1940.

Thanks to these interesting newsletters, we can get a good picture of what was happening during the Depression in Maine, specifically in New Deal programs.


WPA Treasures

Longfellow House poster created by the WPA Maine Art Project, ca. 1935

April 8, 1935, was a great day for historical societies and museums everywhere. That was the day Congress passed FDR’s Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, which included the Works Progress Administration (“Progress” was later changed to “Projects”), or WPA.

Regardless of how you feel about the New Deal, the WPA left generations to come a wealth of material that captured the people, places, events, and attitudes of the era. It also funded special projects and public works that otherwise may never have gotten off the ground.

Still from model airplane flying competition film at Portland Municipal Airport, ca. 1940

An expanded Portland airport, for example. Then known as the Portland Municipal Airport, it was but an airstrip until WPA funds built the first real terminal in 1940. Perhaps that’s why these model plane builders–scads of them–held their competition there that same year. (For a real treat, don’t miss the short film clip from which this still image is taken.)

Fifth Street Junior High School, Bangor, ca. 1940

Entire schools were built, like Fifth Street Junior High School in Bangor (now the James F. Doughty School), one of two new junior highs in the city in 1940 that the WPA paid for in full to the tune of $740,000. (Students from the Doughty School participated in last year’s Maine Community Heritage Project and scanned and cataloged this very postcard for Bangor’s MCHP website.) One wonders what the condition of the buildings the students were in beforehand were like. Without the WPA, who knows when those schools would have been built?

National Youth Administration, Quoddy Village Pageant, 1937

Whether the greatest legacy of the WPA is its physical imprint of buildings and bridges, or its memorable and unique arts- and humanities-based efforts, is up for debate. But few can argue that the resulting photographs, oral histories, newspaper clippings, broadsides, films, manuscripts, artifacts, and other ephemera are a phenomenal national treasure for us all.