Wednesday, November 20, 2019

More than 1,200,000 men already have graduated from the "University of the Woods."

CCC enrollees give themselves heart and soul

to the welfare of the Nation

By Rob Carrigan,

The State of Colorado experienced a 'late spring' in 1933, with the deepest snow in the winter falling in May, but that didn't set back the formation and organization of a 'Forest Army' in woods of Colorado by the end of the year.

Major General Frank Parker, U.S. Army, the Commanding General 8th Corps Area, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, described the announcement to commanding officers of Regular Army posts under his jurisdiction that the President had delegated to the War Department the duty of enrolling, clothing, feeding, quartering, transporting to work camps, furnishing medical service for, paying, keeping records of, and responsibility for the control and welfare of some 275,000 young Americans. Units for administration were to consist of approximately 200 men, and were to be called companies.

These men were not to be under military discipline, as are soldiers, would be subject to civil law only. The name of the new organization was to be the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Col. Sherwood A. Cheney, commanding the 2nd Regiment of Engineers and Post of Fort Logan, was one of the post commanders notified. He was directed to help organize and administer the Civilian Conservation Corps in Colorado. Thirty-five CCC companies began forming in the summer of 1933 and were located in the National Forest and Parks of Colorado. The intention was to compose nearly 50 percent of camps of Colorado men, with the remaining being enrollees from Oklahoma and Texas.

Clothing, tents, blankets, cots, cooking utensils, mess equipment, food and medical supplies were gathered for 7,000 men that were transported to the camps. Some of the camps were 85 miles from the nearest railroad and many of the camps were 400 miles from Fort Logan's command structure. That structure was small at the time, made up of 16, or so, officers, and 480 enlisted men.

The CCC groups were often 200 men in each camp, and spread out all over Colorado. Officers and enlisted men converted from duties that had earned them a strong, capable reputation in WW I as an expeditionary forces in France in 1917 and 1918, and tasked with running the CCC camps.

"The best non-commissioned officers and specialists of the Regiment were selected to act as first sergeants, cooks, and company clerks for the new CCC companies," reported military publications. Much of the clerical work of camps were performed by Fort Logan regulars. Additional officers were sent to help from Fort Warren in Wyoming, and For Sill, in Oklahoma, to help administer the Fort Logan Reconditioning Camp, until the CCC contingents could break off into the work camps.

Nearly 900 men from Denver and surrounding counties were fed, clothed, and quartered while awaiting weather conditions to move to the forests and parks, to new camps at 7,500 to 10,000 feet altitudes.

"The unusually heavy snows during May, 1933, prevented a May 1 occupation. By the middle of the month, occupation of camps began."

"With the exception of the medical service in the work camps, the District was organized, and was administered and supplied until the fall of 1933 by Regular Army personnel," according to History of The CCC in Colorado, produced by camp enrollees in 1936.

"By December 1, 1933, the great majority of Regular Army personnel had been relieved from companies, and had returned to their normal duties. Thereafter, companies and work camps were administered by reserve officers, with enrollee assistants."

"Slightly more than three years ago the Federal Government, in its desire to relieve hardship resulting from unusual economic conditions and conserve the natural resources of the Country, authorized the organization of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The undertaking of this giant task was made the duty of several government agencies, the principal ones being the Department of Agriculture, Interior, Labor and War," wrote Major General Frank Parker,  in a letter to outlining the accomplishments in July 27, 1936.

"From the very inception of the movement, there were many people who were somewhat skeptical as what could be accomplished by the Civilian Conservation Corps. From my personal observation, I know that the results which have been accomplished cannot possibly be over-estimated.These phenomenal results were due to some extent to the coordination and cooperation of the participating Federal departments. However, the credit for the success of the movement must be shared by the enrollees that make up the Corps. The determination with which the enrollees set about to perform the tasks assigned them is indicative of the spirit of young American manhood. It shows that they not only realize and appreciate the fact that the Civilian Conservation Corps affords them an opportunity to assist their families and themselves in a financial way, but gives to the Country, as a whole, lasting benefits," Parker noted.

"Since the beginning of the movement in April, 1933, more than 1,200,000 men already have graduated from the "University of the Woods." Not only have these men derived great benefit in the way of physical development through outdoor life and healthy living: but they have been afforded opportunities for improving themselves for return to normal walks of life, and make themselves better citizens," he said.

"It has been my experience that the members of Civilian Conservation Corps have accepted every responsibility thrust upon them, and have accomplished all their duties, in general, in a signal manner. Not only this, but they have been eager to take advantage of the educational opportunities in the camps which the government has so generously provide. All this shows clearly and unmistakably that the American youth has lost none of the strength and virility of his forbears, and that the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps can always be relied upon to give themselves heart and soul to the welfare of the Nation," General Parker recalled.

Photo Information:

Photo 1:
Civilian Conservation Corps workers shovel roadbase at Mesa Verde National Park. Some wear coveralls; another is shirtless. Floyd Boardman wears a white short-sleeved shirt, fedora hat, and tall laced boots.

Photo 2:
Clothing, tents, blankets, cots, cooking utensils, mess equipment, food and medical supplies were gathered for 7,000 men that were transported to the camps.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Work feeds artists in Colorado Post Offices

Loveland mural by Russell Sherman.

"I realized the bohemian life was not for me. I look around at my friends, living like starving artists, and wonder, 'Where's the art?' They weren't doing anything. And there was so much interesting stuff to do, so much fun to be had ... maybe I could even quit renting."
__ P. J. O'rourke

Art murals go "Postal" in the 1930s

By Rob Carrigan,

If you wander into any of 15 select post offices in Colorado, you can still see the remnants of a 1930s "New Deal" project to diminish artists' stress at the time — namely, the 'starving' part.

Here in Loveland, Iowa-born artist Russell Sherman painted it as he saw it at that time, "as a farming community in the shadow of Long's Peak, where bumper crops of golden grain was harvested; where sugar beets nourished by snow-fed mountain streams turned into irrigation canals, were processed in the sugar factory; where beef cattle munched their way to oblivion; where barns and farm houses spoke of the goodness of life," wrote local historian Zethyl Gates in the Loveland Reporter-Herald in 1979.

While painting the mural, Sherman and his wife lived in a cottage near Estes Park. He also painted a mural for the Rocky Mountain National Park agency in Estes Park, and later illustrated books and created a number of murals and lithographs representing the Western Scene.

"Sherman loved the West and his style compares favorably with that of other artists of the Regionalist movement championed by Thomas Hart Benton, himself and active naturalist who depicted small town rural life. It is interesting to note that Kenneth Evett studied under Benton, and painted a similar mural in the Golden Post Office," says Gates.

"Throughout the United States—on post office walls large and small—are scenes reflecting America's history and way of life. Post offices built in the 1930s during Roosevelt's New Deal were decorated with enduring images of the 'American scene,'" wrote Patricia Raynor, more than two decades ago for Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

"In the 1930s, as America continued to struggle with the effects of the depression, the federal government searched for solutions to provide work for all Americans, including artists. During this time government-created agencies supported the arts in unprecedented ways. As Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's relief administrator said in response to criticism of federal support for the arts, "[artists] have got to eat just like other people," Raynor said.

Often mistaken for WPA art, post office murals were actually executed by artists working for the Section of Fine Arts. Commonly known as "the Section," it was established in 1934 and administered by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department. Headed by Edward Bruce, a former lawyer, businessman, and artist, the Section's main function was to select art of high quality to decorate public buildings—if the funding was available, Raynor wrote.

Edward Bright Bruce managed the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the Section of Painting and Sculpture and the Treasury Relief Art Project, New Deal relief efforts that provided work for artists in the United States during the Great Depression.

Ned Bruce was a successful lawyer and entrepreneur before giving up his career altogether at the age of 43 to become an artist. However, like most artists during the Depression, he found it impossible to make a living making art, and grudgingly returned to business in 1932 as a lobbyist in Washington for the Calamba Sugar Estate of San Francisco. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt received a letter from the American painter George Biddle, who suggested a New Deal program that would hire artists to paint murals in federal office buildings.

Roosevelt liked the idea, and brought it to the United States Treasury Department, which oversaw all construction of federal buildings. Bruce had by that time made some connections in Washington, and he was asked to help organize the effort. By the end of 1943, all of the New Deal art programs had been shut down following Bruce's death. 

 Murals produced through the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture (1934–43) were funded as a part of the cost of the construction of new post offices, with 1% of the cost set aside for artistic enhancements. Murals were commissioned through competitions open to all artists in the United States. Almost 850 artists were commissioned to paint 1371 murals, most of which were installed in post offices; 162 of the artists were women and three were African American.

The Treasury Relief Art Project (1935–38), which provided artistic decoration for existing Federal buildings, produced a smaller number of post office murals. TRAP was established with funds from the Works Progress Administration. The Section supervised the creative output of TRAP, and selected a master artist for each project. Assistants were then chosen by the artist from the rolls of the WPA Federal Art Project.

The Colorado Post Offices that once sported "Section" murals includes Colorado Springs, Denver, Englewood, Florence, Glenwood, Golden, Grand Junction, Gunnison, Littleton, Loveland, Manitou Springs, Montrose, Rifle Rocky Ford and Walsenburg. Two murals that were in the Colorado Springs post office (NRHP-listed, but NRHP document does not mention murals) were removed and installed in the Federal Building in Denver.

Section of Fine Arts mural entitled “Hunters, Red and White” painted by Archie Musick for the Manitou Springs post office in 1942.
A plaque near the mural reads: “Depression-era public art programs coincided with the heyday of Colorado Springs’ art school, the Broadmoor Art Academy: Its students and teachers painted murals in federal buildings nationwide. For Manitou’s post office mural competition, my father, Archie Musick, depicted the legend of Manitou’s springs: ‘the God Manitou in a fit of rage clubbing a quarrelsome chief.’ His frieze of Indian-trapper life across the bottom of the submitted sketch was so popular with ‘the brass in Washington…they told me to dump the main design and blow up the frieze to fill the entire space.’ Painted when many federal murals were nationalistic – just months after Pearl Harbor – this mural’s ambiguity and unusual dry-pigment/glaze technique are distinctive: ‘Hunters Red and White” embodies some historical suggestions from his friend, author Frank Waters – Manitou’s first cabin, explorers Pike and Fremont – but mostly Archie’s own inspiration from fantasy, pictographs, artist friends (including Japanese-American artists sheltering here), and the beloved local rocky landscape.”

Boardman Robinson’s “Colorado Stock Sale” mural still occupies most of a wall in the Englewood post office lobby. The post office was threatened with closure in 2010 but was saved after an outcry from local residents and preservationists.
Image by Broadman Robinson, Date:1940

Walsenburg mural.

Glenwood mural.

Littleton mural.