“Traveling History’s Trail . . . Together”

Article on CCC artist research by Kathleen Duxbury and Gardner Year used with permission of Autumn Years 2015

Delighted with the entertaining article that highlights on our efforts researching the Civilian Conservation Corps and the New Deal CCC art program.

“Traveling History’s Trail . . . Together” written by Patricia Farrell Delhauser along with the design and layout by Heidi Gross appeared in the Fall 2015 edition of Autumn Years magazine.

The full, ten page, spread can be viewed on my KathleenDuxbury.com website.

Included in this article are numerous photographs from our research travels in addition to several images selected from my CCC fine art infrared collection. The infrared image of the CCC Worker statue , which symbolically overlooks Bowman Bay at Deception Pass State Park in Washington, stands proudly outside the park CCC Interpretive Center. It is a monument that honors the legacy of the CCC.

The history of this unusual CCC Worker statue is a complex one. A daunting challenge to investigate, but a challenge I accept.

Suffice to say the genesis of the statues purpose and designs actually harkens back to 1934, but that is yet another compelling story of the CCC – the art, artists and history.

Deception Pass CCC statue
Deception Pass CCC statue ©KathleenDuxbury.com – with permission Autumn Years magazine 2015

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“Traveling History’s Trail . . . Together” article on CCC artist research by Kathleen Duxbury and Gardner Year used with permission of Autumn Years 2015

 

 

CCC ART – Artists of the Civilian Conservation Corps – Marshall Davis

Remembering the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) by discovering the art and artists who depicted it.

 “CCC ART – Artists of the Civilian Conservation Corps – Marshall Davis” my latest book on a quiet part of American art history, the CCC art program, is now available. More information can be found here. It has been an exciting and labor intensive journey of discovery, on so many levels.

CCC-Art-MD-

Available direct from the author Kathleen Duxbury at www.kathleenduxbury.com
  Order Here or on Amazon

NEWS May 2015 – Available at the FDR Presidential Library bookstore, Hyde Park, New York.
A visit to the Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a National Historic Site, is highly recommended. So much to do and see.
Pick up your copy of “CCC ART – Marshall Davis” at the New Deal Store.

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 “I have a pile of picture material – and thanks to those managing the Art Project
and Mr. Hoyt of Happy Days – the time is drawing near when I will have nothing to do
but sleep – eat – and draw . . . I assure you I will do my best with every opportunity.”
(Clarence) Marshall Davis

One can easily sense the excitement felt by junior Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollee Marshall Davis on March 24, 1934 as he put pen to paper and wrote those words to Edward Rowan in the Treasury Department  Washington, D.C.  Marshall Davis was soon to receive an honorable discharge from the CCC making him a civilian free to sign on to the first of the Great Depression government art programs, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). Once CCC Director, Robert Fechner and PWAP Director, Edward Bruce became aware of Davis and his remarkable talents they quickly intervened and arranged for his discharge and transfer.

Marshall Davis was caught up in a dramatic and timely turn of events that would enable him to leave CCC Co. 1253, Hattiesburg, Mississippi and embark on a artistic journey that would change his life, career and provide us, eight decades later, with a collection of illustrations and articles that masterfully narrate the life and work of the real CCC.

CCCArtist_Records from the collection and research files of Kath

Marshall Davis-HappyDays-CCCArtist

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his personal approval to the making of a pictorial record of the CCC,  his favorite New Deal work program, by sending artists into CCC camps. If you have seen a copy of Happy Days, a holiday menu, a postcard or one of the CCC handbooks; Your CCC or We Can Take It, you have seen the art of the most prolific CCC artist, Marshall Davis.

As an embedded artist and reporter Marshall Davis traveled extensively within the lower forty-eight states, illustrating and writing on the remarkable successes and often humorous splinters of Roosevelt’s tree army.

He was extremely talented and resourceful. The drawings and personal journey of Marshall Davis add a unique and valuable component, helping us all to gain a better understanding of Americas greatest conservation movement and Americas greatest generation.

Now available – CCC ART – Artists of the Civilian Conservation Corps – Marshall Davis” has been deeply researched. Explaining, perhaps for the first time, the genesis of the CCC art program. It tells the remarkable story of one artist, Marshall Davis, who like so many idle and struggling artists, was desperate for meaningful work during the cruelest years of the Great Depression. No artist knew the CCC better than Marshall Davis, he was one of them

 _
. . .  Until supplies last . . .

2015-Calendar-Art-Marshall-Davis

 

Product Details Book –
CCC ART – Artists of the Civilian Conservation Corps
Marshall Davis

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Duxbury Media, Incorporated; 1 edition (December 5, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0986003840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0986003844
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces

CCC Holidays

Thanksgiving_Marshall-DavisHoliday Greetings

Between 1934 – 1937 the CCC special Art Project was active, the goal was to make a pictorial record of the life and work in the CCC camps.

All CCC artists were directed to be of assistance to the camp authorities when requests of an artistic nature were made. Many created murals for the Recreation Halls, paintings and diagrams for the classrooms and often did illustrations for the camp newspapers and reports. Their artistic talents were very much appreciated as they were called on to create art decorations for the camps and company publications, especially around the holidays.

 

CCCArtist_Records from the collection and research files of Kath
The most prolific CCC artist was Marshall Davis, he entered the CCC as a regular enrollee and brought along his sketch pad. His talents were soon  recognized and when the CCC special art program began he became a part of it. In time he was offered a staff position at the CCC unofficial newspaper “Happy Days“. His art is found on the Thanksgiving and Christmas menus along with years of illustrations in “Happy Days” and other CCC publications.

Happy Days CCC 1938-11-12-1

A book is in the works – titled ” CCC Artists – Marshall Davis – Artists of the Civilian Conservation Corps“. Publication will be in 2014 and  sizable amount of his CCC art will be featured to illustrate his remarkable story. Suffice to say, no other artist had visited as many CCC camps or knew the program as well as Marshall Davis, his depictions are humorous and poignant, he was a prolific CCC artist.

CCCArtist_Records from the collection and research files of KathAnother artist was Ted Bonnickson who contributed this New Years this cartoon to “Happy Days”. Bonnickson had trained at the Chicago School of Art but, like so many artists of his time he entered the commercial art field during the cruelest years of the Great Depression when their was little to no work for established artists. Bonnickson also signed on as a regular enrollee and like Davis had his status changed to Artist/Enrollee.

Dangers-CCC Some like Arkansas artist,  Benham Carter Dangers, sent sample of his art and applied directly to the agency in Washington, DC, the Section of Painting and Sculpture, that administered the CCC art program for admission. His application was made during the last months of the program and although he may not have had access to the art education of some other artists; he was accepted in to the program because his talents were recognized.  Benham Dangers was a young, unemployed artist, the time spent as a CCC Artist/Enrollee was instructive and empowering. The experience served him well in his future artistic endeavors.

The CCC camp newspapers of the 193o’s, for the most part, were not high quality; often they were printed using the low-budget camp mimeograph machine. Drawing and illustrations did not reproduce well using this method and many of these camp papers were preserved, decades later, by copying them to microfilm  or microfiche, a copying process that does not enhance the lines and details of any art. The copy of the Dangers illustration used for the cover of the camp newspaper “The Cassette” 1936 – 1937 Christmas and New Year edition was in extremely poor condition. All things considered he seems to have mastered the stylus used for this mimeographed stencil.

1935- Day after Thanksgiving Marshall Davis - Happy Days 11/23/1
CCC Camp authorities made an extra effort to entertain and provide a feast that would weigh down the tables, often the camps and the CCC boys reached out to the nearby community, especially the children, and included them in their parties and other holiday celebrations. It was the Great Depression and, as hard as it may have been to be so far away from home and family, holidays in the CCC camps would become for many CCC boys a lifetime memory.

ChristmasHell-M-Davis

 

A recommended website to read a wonderful article on the Holidays in the CCC camps can be found here:  Forest Army – Stories from the CCC.
Happy New Year 12-26-1936

 

 

 

George Gordon Snyder – Final Years

Part 1 of this story may be found here

George Gordon Snyder was like a rolling stone, never in one place for long. Each decade brought change…and with it a new location to call home. His life-long pursuit of art would keep him working hard and challenged as he struggled to support himself, his wife and feed his passion for painting.

In the late 1800’s, Sarah Lewis Snyder, was a widowed mother of five and after George, her youngest child, completed elementary school she left Iowa and relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska. Qualifying for a mortgage, she purchased a home in a new development, five blocks east of the State Capitol Building and a mile south of the state university on South 21st Street. For the next four decades she lived there with her daughter Nettie, a bookkeeper.  Sarah was in her 92nd year when she died in 1931. The house had been valued the year before at $3000 and passed to Nettie, who never married or had children.

1883-Lincoln-NE

Perhaps this inheritance led to some resentment on Georges’ part. At the time of his mother’s death he was 58 years old and married. The financial stability his siblings had found eluded him, the crushing depression years were just beginning  and George was once again unemployed and struggling…having lost his position as a Designer with Marshall Field & Company he would soon leave Chicago in his self-made house truck, desperately optimistic that somehow, by traveling, he could produce an income from his artistic endeavors.

A suggestion of this possible bitterness is found in his CCC enrollment records; if you read between the lines.
CCC enrollment records George Gordon Snyder

When George arrived at the Petit Jean State Park CCC camp, in January 1937, an “Enrollee Cumulative Record” report was added to his file. This personal record was compiled by the district Education Advisor; notations and evaluations were made on the courses George took (Journalism) and taught (Art).  Accounts of his previous education, employment and family background were included. The entries are not in Georges’ handwriting, nor did he sign off on them. The specifics noted were in all likelihood provided by George during the three interviews with the camp Educational Advisor.
GG-Snyder-records2

Several discrepancies and embellishments emerge…Snyder was older, by decades, than everyone at the Petit Jean camp, including the advisor… entries for his birthdate, education and other milestones span years that do not compute; if believed this accounting would make him 37 years old when he graduated elementary school  in Iowa.…decades are compressed in this biographical profile…the information for his father  agrees with previous records but, a curious name is provided for his deceased mother:  “Jessebell”.

During the 1930’s, Nettie found employment as a sales clerk and continued to live alone in the Lincoln, Nebraska home; she remained there until her death in September 1941, at the age of 79 years.

During the following year the house stood vacant and then Georges’ older brother Frank, who appears to be the last of his living siblings, died. Sometime after this George and Carrie left Arkansas and chicken farming … they moved into the South 21st Street Lincoln house… here George found the means to continue with his painting; they made Nebraska their new home.

Although George did not advertise or have a phone he would again have had the space to set up a home studio, perhaps he found a market for his landscapes and decorative talents. World War II had ended, America was now the most powerful nation; the economy was rebounding …conceivably George had found stability.

As George entered his 79th year he still identified himself as an artist and was designated as one in the Lincoln Nebraska Community Directory for 1951 on page 522:

 “SNYDER, Geo G (Carrie L) artist h 427 S 21st

This directory entry is the last reference found for George.

Lincoln Directories After 1951 George and Carrie L. , who was now using variations of her middle name (Luettie, Luetti and Louella), are not recorded as living together in Lincoln or anywhere else. The house, that had been in the Snyder family for almost seven decades, was rented for a couple of years and then stood vacant from 1955 -1959, when (Carrie) Mrs. Luetti Snyder returned. For the next four years she lived in the Snyder house on South 21st Street… she was alone.

Her listing reappears in 1967, living in an apartment on “O” Street:
Louella Snyder (wid George G.)

This 1950 and 1960’s era would usher in the age of McCarthyism, the Cold War and anti-communistic attitudes that were, at best, dismissive of art from the 1930’s. Ironically, around this period renovations were made to the Department of Agriculture building in Washington DC.  The facelift would purge from the walls decorative pieces from the New Deal, paintings that were on permanent loan; art that was meant to bring culture and beauty  to the people and serve as decoration to taxpayer funded government buildings. Among the art discarded were oils depicting one of the greatest conservation movements in American history, the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The story is told that among the restoration cast-offs were the 1937 landscapes created by CCC Artist G. G. Snyder: ”View from  Lodge” and “Section of Lodge” … it’s said they were found outside the building, in a dumpster and salvaged by one of the construction crew.


View from Lodge - Mather Lodge Petit Jean State ParkView from Lodge - Mather Lodge Petit Jean State Park 

These historic CCC New Deal art treasures have returned home to the Ozarks they depict. Once again, they will bring beauty and art to the people; in addition, their backstory will make interesting conversation as they grace the wall of the newly renovated Mather Lodge, built by the CCC enrollees, at Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton, Arkansas.

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Endnotes: Researching G. G. Snyder’s’ final years has been challenging, it’s still unknown when and where he died but assumed it was between 1951 – 1959. Being self-employed he was exempt from enrolling in the Social Security program that began in 1935.
Many thanks to Scott C., Reference Services, Bennett Martin Public Library, Lincoln, NE for researching the City Directories. Records obtained from the following sources completed the story of the G.G. Snyder years:  National Archives Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland;  CCC camp inspection reports, Petit Jean and Devils Den Forest Service Narrative and Project reports. Personal CCC artist file of George Gordon Snyder found at the NARA – Civilian Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri; Photographs from Forest Service reports, US Census Records, City of Lincoln Nebraska City Directories, Library of Congress. The image of the City Directory for Nebraska spans decades and has been composited to demonstrate the timeline of the Snyder family residency.  Every attempt has been made to present an accurate and factual record of the life of CCC artist, George Gordon Snyder and his CCC art.                   Kathleen Duxbury, June 24, 2013

Idle Artist of the Great Depression – George Gordon Snyder – Oldest CCC artist

By the time the 1934 New Deal CCC artist program commenced George Gordon Snyder, born September 10, 1873 in Charles City, Iowa,  was once again an unemployed artist. George was into his 60’s when he put pen to paper and signed the official CCC  “OATH OF ENROLLMENT“.  He was older than President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and stranded in Hot Springs, Arkansas…the CCC artist program was all that was available…he had no other options.

 Edward Rowan was appointed to the position of Assistant Technical Director, Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture, it was he who approved the enrollment of the artists and advised them:
“I want to stress to the artists that the purpose of sending them to these camps is to secure a pictorial record which will be of some value not only at the present, but in the future, of the life and activities of these camps.”Edward B. Rowan 11/16/1934

CCC artists were not bound by the limitation of age or marital status. They signed on for six month tours with a status of : “Artist/Enrollee” and with Rowan’s approval they could re-enroll indefinitely.

They were exempt from labor and fatigue duties but were not eligible for advancement, increase in pay or promotions.  They received the full $30 a monthly pay and were required to furnish their own art supplies with the understanding that all art created in a 40 hour work week belonged to America and all movable pieces were to be shipped  to the Treasury Department warehouse in Washington, DC where it would be allocated to tax-payer funded buildings or organizations.

In researching George Gordon Snyder it seems each decade was either feast or famine in regards to his financial security, which directly affected his artistic growth. Between 1910 and 1920 he worked as a commercial artist and blacksmith in Oregon, for a short time he studied art at the University of Nebraska, but never graduated. In 1922, he found work as an artist with the famous Marshall Field Department stores in Chicago and for seven years was gainfully employed.

During that time he married a much younger mid-western woman, Carrie L., from Branson, Missouri, she was 28 and he was 50 years old. The 1920’s decade were boom years for Marshall Fields and this in turn provided security for George and Carrie who were living less than three miles from the western shore of Lake Michigan. Their monthly rent of $55 was among the highest of the Montana Street tenants and unlike their neighbors they did not own a radio.

By 1929, a change in retail distribution and wholesale patterns in addition to the beginnings of the Great Depression could not save Marshall Field’s wholesale division or G. G. Snyder’s career as a commercial artist.

George, who always desired to get into the field of fine art, once again found himself unemployed …he built a “house truck”… they left Illinois and headed south toward the Ozarks.  His hope was that this traveling studio would provide a: “living in the hills while spanning the gulf between the work that I had been doing and the kind of work which I wanted to do.” G.G. Snyder Nov. 24, 1934

During the winter of 1934, George and Carrie were in Hot Springs, Arkansas and for a few months he found work with the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the first government subsidized art program administered by the Treasury Department. As a PWAP artist, George painted at least three pieces. The oil titled “Newcomer” would later be presented to Arkansas Governor F. W. Futrall and two of his other PWAP paintings “The Ozark Plowman” and “The Cross-Cut Saw” were shipped to Washington, DC . (1)

These impressive commissions did little to create financial security for George, like so many artists,  he was unemployed again and contacted Edward Rowan in Washington, DC requesting a positon as a CCC artist.  “If I understand some of the aims of the current administration  correctly, I represent the class of citizens it wishes to reach and help.”  G. G. Snyder Nov. 24, 1934

 G. G. Snyder was 61 years old, on January 23, 1935, when he arrived at Devils Den State Park in West Fork, Arkansas.  He would reside there for two years while Carrie stayed in the “house truck” in Hot Springs.
Eventually he would move her and the truck to Fayetteville so she could attend classes at the University there.  He considered this arrangement a hardship for her and although he would have liked to provide better living conditions, especially during the winter months, he was reluctant to leave his artist position with the CCC…he felt it was doing him good and he liked working under Rowan…he was creating fine art landscapes… he was working and his art  was appreciated.

George was putting in more than the required 40 hours per week,; he was a high volume painter in addition to teaching the CCC boys the art basics and drawing for the camp newspapers.

At regular intervals, Snyder would ship paintings to Rowan and then wait to hear and act on his critiques and suggestions. Rowan would suggest that he warm up his pallete; acknowledging that Snyder was using the better art materials, which were more expensive, Rowan expressed regret that they were unable to change the stipulation requiring artists to provide their own supplies. Snyder also received word that the office in DC was now receiving requests for his landscapes.

On February 17, 1935, less than a month after arriving he sent his first group of paintings from Devils Den and  included the description of: “The Road Builders” (Bridal Path Bridge) depicts some men completing a bridge on a bridal path, camp No. 2 below showing dimly on the hazy day.”

During the two years George was at Devils Den there were several changes in command and companies of CCC boys and hisaccommodations  varied from living in the barracks with the regular enrollees to a small, cramped, unheated room. No known image of George Gordon Snyder has been located but this photograph from the 1935 Devils Den yearbook was found in the Arkansas History Commission collection. Could this possibly be G. G. Snyder, he’s listed on the roster and he appears to be much older than anyone else at the camp?

In January 1937,  George was transferred to the Petit Jean Camp in Morrilton, Arkansas and writes: “I am very happy to state that here they have provided me with a large room by myself with excellent light, Since being here I have repainted some of the pictures that I had ruined at Devils Den.”  The Petit Jean CCC camp enrollees were world war veterans; they were a hard working group who made Arkansas first state park the jewel it remains today. They built the beautiful Mather Lodge, numerous cabins, pavilions, bridges, overlooks and trails. One of the educational programs offered to the veteran enrollees was  project of raising capons.

In March 1937 Snyder re-enrolled for another 6 months… he is happy… his work is improving and then he receives the form letter sent by Rowan to all CCC artists “We have just been informed by the War Department that henceforth junior enrollees 29 years of age or over will not be eligible for re-enrollment, and that the rule is interpreted by them as also applying to artist-enrollees……inform us immediately of your age…If you are not rendered ineligible by this rule I shall be glad to recommend you for re-enrollment to the War Department”

Subsequent letters between Rowan and Snyder now change; they become more personal. Rowan’s words are compassionate and his concern is sincere, he displays a protective nature and gives advice… Snyder’s letters seem rushed with missing words, the tone is one of urgency, almost desperation…the age restriction will eliminate him…he just bought new art supplies, paid some of his wife’s bills and he has little to go out with…he asks Rowan for more time…Rowan responds that he will keep Snyder’s letter in a pile and await the responses from all the other artists (which never happens) or until he is informed directly by the Army that Snyder is not eligible. This delay tactic gave Snyder another six months.

When Congress ceased the funding for the CCC art program all are officially informed that the program will close at the end of  September 1937 and the artists will be discharged.

Shortly before he left Snyder writes to Rowan and confid es:”I have a very definite plan for myself which I wish to carry out, when I leave the CCC. I want to locate upon beautiful Mount Gaylor, there, with a good garden and some chickens, I am sure that I can earn a living through the sale of paintings to tourist who travel No. 71 Highway, which passes over the Mountain.locating there I could further develop my art as well as helping in the community in createing (sic) more art appreciation, and stimulateing (sic) a greater love of the beauties of this country and its preservation.

 At present I have nothing to start with.” (2)

Around this time, Snyder sent his last shipment of 21 paintings, along with a list of their titles.

View From Lodge” and “Section of the Lodge” were among the final oil paintings G. G. Snyder created during his 2 year 9 month enrollment as a CCC artist.

He shipped them from Petit Jean State Park to the Treasury Department warehouse in Washington DC and considered these last paintings some of his better work.

G. G. Snyder was honorably discharged on September 30. 1937, the final day of the CCC art program.

During the summer of 2012, Kathleen Duxbury, a CCC artist researcher and author , embarked on a lower 48 states trek. Traveling in a motor home with her husband Gardner Yeaw, to research for the book: “Idle Artists of the Great Depression – A Pictorial Record of the Civilian Conservation Corps”.

Their travel agenda, two years in the making, was power packed with appointments but, an important stop was at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Kathleen was scheduled to be part of a team presentation which focused on the PWAP art of Art Clough, master wood carver whose magnificent carvings are housed in the Knight Library at the University of Oregon.  A portion of the Clough woodcarvings masterfully depicted the CCC. She was to join with Ken O’Connell professor emeritus in the U of O art department and Portland fine art gallery owner Mark Humpal, an Oregon art expert. Together they would lecture on the six carved cedar panels in the Knight Library.

Meeting for the first time a week before the presentation, at Mark Humpals Fine Art Gallery in Portland, they prepared for the lecture. When the meeting  concluded and all were reorganizing and packing their things Kathleen switched to a slide show of CCC art she had located… when the G. G. Snyder “Bridge Builders” photo from the Smithsonian collection came on the screen all activity stopped …Kathleen remarked “He is one of the artists I am drawn to”…  Mark immediately recognized the name and seeing the painting realized he knew of this artists work… Sixteen years earlier, Mark had purchased oil paintings at a Portland estate sale by G. G. Snyder; one was a landscape and the other was of a stone lodge with a unique chimney. After numerous, unsuccessful, attempts to identify the artist and the locations depicted in the paintings he had them conserved and then carefully stored them.

The collection of poignant CCC letters between Snyder and Rowan provided the source documents confirming that “Section of the Lodge” and “View from Lodge” referred to Mather Lodge, built by the CCC at Petit Jean State Park, and the oils, Mark purchased sixteen years earlier, were in fact art created by CCC artist G.G. Snyder while assigned to the CCC camp in Morrilton Arkansas in 1937.

Mark Humpal entrusted the two pieces to Kathleen and Gardner Yeaw for their safe return to Petit Jean State Park.

It took two months of RV’ing, with numerous research stops, to journey from Portland to Arkansas. On October 19, 2012, the oils were returned to Petit Jean State Park. Suitably the delivery took place in the Mather Lodge CCC Room. Those present were Kathleen and Gardner, Wally Sherrey, Petit Jean State Park Superintendent; Park Interpreters B. T. Jones and Rachel Engebrecht and  Richard Davies, Arkansas Executive Director of Parks and Tourism whose grandfather, Samuel G. Davies, was the former Superintendent of Petit Jean CCC camp and Arkansas’s first  State Park Director.

In 1937 Arkansas Director of State Parks, Samuel G Davies sent at least two letters to Washington DC requesting the return of ten George Gordon Snyder pieces for use at the park. It’s hard to know what transpired regarding this appeal because the offices administering the CCC art were closing and allocation was no longer under their direction once the CCC art program ended…or so it seems.

But the story as told to Mark Humpal by the woman running the estate sale… her father was a contractor who worked in Washington, DC…sometime in the 1950- 60’s he was with a crew working on restoration of the Department of Agriculture, there was a dumpster outside the building and in the dumpster was furniture, debris and art. He fished these paintings out of the dumpster… and 75 years later the request for the art of George Gordon Snyder to be returned to Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton, Arkansas was honored.

And what became of George Gordon Snyder and Carrie L?

They are last located in the early 1940’s…living in Bentonville Arkansas. He is 69 and she is 47 years old, they are self-employed on a farm, which they are renting, their occupation is: “Producers”- “Broilers” and George has a broken right hand.

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UPDATE
George Gordon Snyder – Final Years
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Endnotes:

ID’s for last photo – 10/19/2012 -Standing in the CCC Room of the Mather Lodge in Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton, Arkansas holding  the  returned 1937 CCC art of George Gordon Snyder. L to R – B.T. Jones, Park Interpreter, Wally Scherrey, Park Superintendent; Richard Davies Executive Director Arkansas Parks and Tourism; Kathleen Duxbury, CCC artist researcher; Rachel Engebrecht, Park Interpreter and Gardner Yeaw, CCC researcher.

________________________________________________________________

Research for this artist took many sources and help. Records found in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and St. Louis, Missouri provided the foundation. They are CCC Camp Inspection Reports, Narrative Reports, Project Reports, CCC artist letters, Civilian Personnel Records, still photographs, CCC yearbooks and annuals. All these records span the years 1934 – 1937 and some are in Kathleen Duxbury’s personal collection. Some yearbooks were found in the Arkansas Historical Commission archives, CCC camp newspapers were found in the Devils Den State Park collection and the registration cards for WWI amd WWII and numerous US and state census reports came from online resources.

Special thanks to those who were part, directly or indirectly, for the identification and return of the G. G. Snyder art. Thank you Mark Humpal of Mark Humpal Fine Art Gallery in Portland. So glad you listened to your instincts when you thought to auction these paintings five years ago but, changed your mind. Whew, that was close.  Ken O’Connell of U of O, without your assistance and friendship none of this would have come together.  Kathy Flynn and Harvey Smith, National New Deal Preservation Organization and Joan Sharpe, CCC Legacy organization, your continued support of this research is valued. Whitney Mahar, Ashley Mattingly and Theresa Fitzgerald from the St. Louis NARA for your special efforts in locating G. G. Snyder’s personnel records, these were the final records that connected all the dots. Gene Morris, National Archives, College Park for always pointing me in the right directions. And to the many wonderful people in Arkansas whose suggestions, help and assistance faciliated the research and return of this art. David Ware, Arkansas Capitol Historian, Julienne Crawford, Arkansas History Commission,  Tim Scott, Devils Den State Park, Wally Sherrey, Petit Jean State Park, B. T. Jones and Rachel Engenrecht Petit Jean State Park. Greg Butts, Arkansas Director of Parks, Richard Davies, Arkansas Exec. Director of Tourism and Parks…Mr. Davies it was so appropiate that you were present to assure the future protection of the G. G. Snyder artwork… thee CCC treasures that your grandfather Samuel G. Davies requested, in 1937, be returned home to Petit Jean State Park.

A special Thank You to the people of Arkansas who approved the legislation that uses a portion of sales tax dollars to protect and preserve your beautiful Arkansas State Parks.

The George George Snyder art is not only home where it is truly appreciated but it’s future preservation is in good hands.

We are honored to have been a part of this and feel that George Gordon Snyder and the first Director of Arkansas State Parks, Samuel G. Davies, would be pleased.


 

2012 Trek – South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park & WPA art

Heading west on Route 90 we crossed over into South Dakota and came upon the infamous roadside attraction “Porter Sculpture Park”. Visible from the road was the huge 60 foot tall, 25 ton sculpture of a bulls head (said to be equal in size to the heads at Mount Rushmore) it was only ½ mile off the highway, in Montrose, so we paid for a visit and met the artist/sculptor/poet Ron Porter.


The sun was high in the sky and cast a shadow on the “American Gothic” sculpture that depicts the hand of drought “grasping for anything”. Considering the recent news reports of widespread drought affecting so much of the United States, this light and shadow was unsettling.

Temperatures were approaching 101 degrees so we booked a 50 amp camping spot in the famous town/tourist trap of Wall, South Dakota.  Although we didn’t partake of the free ice water at the Wall Drug Store we were able to tour the Badlands early the next morning when temperatures were tolerable.

To our surprise, we discovered that there was a first come-first serve campground within the
Badlands National Park and in checking the power supply we found that we would have had more than enough electricity to run our air conditioners and saw that a previous camper had left behind their Canon camera battery and charger.

Next stop was the Black Hills National Forest, which borders Custer State Park and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  There were several CCC camps in the beautiful South Dakota Black Hills and until recently the original structures of one – Camp Lodge, SP-4 in Custer State Park, was still in use by the Black Hills Playhouse.

Unfortunately, only two buildings now remain and the one used as the “Costume Building” will be torn down next year for safety concerns. These CCC camp buildings were never meant to be permanent and it is remarkable that they not only survived but their four walls continued to be protective and productive for almost eight decades.

Two CCC artists were assigned to Custer State Park – the first state park in South Dakota. Camp Pine Lake, SP-1, Company #1793 was located one mile north and one mile west of Mount Rushmore. One of their many work projects was building a dam that would eventually form Horsethief Lake, a public camping and recreation area.

 Sculptor Vaclav (James, Jim) Klimo in 1934 and wildlife artist, Morris (Moe) Gollub in 1935 spent a few productive months while at this Rushmore camp.

Klimo found it: “a perfect, marvelous place…I wander out into the hills, which are filled with huge monsters, weird faces stare out at you from great grey corrugated masses of granite that push out of the rolling hills, sometimes they remind one of growing things. There is something deeply religious about this place. The Gods of eternity seem to brood over the landscape…”  One of the pieces Klimo was inspired to make was a four-headed sculpture. (1)  When Rowan, in DC, received the sculpture he commented that it “is too extreme in expression for most people” but he would put it in a place where he could look at it from time to time; to try and capture the spirit in which it was made .(2)

Klimo not only met Mount Rushmore master sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his daughter but, he procured the hard to find plaster for his CCC sculptures from his Rushmore studio.  Klimo described the “murmur of drills at Rushmore” as pleasant, even if the “destroying hand of man had only defaced slightly” what was once a fine mountain” (2)

Unfortunately, no art has been found from these artists but we did discover what might very well be 1937 original WPA art at the Custer State Park.

When the Custer State Park Museum was under construction letters requesting designs for the relief models and museum displays were sent to the National Park Service,  Western Museum Laboratories, located at the Berkeley campus of the University of California.

“General public is keenly interested in the activities of the CCC enrollees working in the National Park Service Museum laboratories. This photo shows entrance to one of the several laboratories at Berkeley…”

This was a special spur camp, a separate CCC unit of men “chosen from various national park camps in the state and were given special training to fit them for the unusual work”. They designed and constructed numerous relief models, signage and other museum exhibits used in many national parks and monuments. (3)

CCC artist, Morris Gollub hoped the wildlife art he was creating would be used for exhibits in the newly constructed Custer State Park Museum. It is unknown what was displayed in the earlier years of the museum, which is now known as the Peter Norbeck Visitors Center.  After the building, by the CCC was completed, there were funding issues and discussions as to what would be of educational value in the museum, should it be habitat groups, conservation, preservation…it seems what was ultimately decided was displays on western history and earlier settlers. (3)

By June of 1937 arrangements and funding had been found to “appoint a technical service staff for the summer months”.  Student engineers, three artists, a geologist, architect, forester, draftsmen and a historian would soon arrive…and “most of these student Technicians will work on the exhibits for the Custer State Park Museum”. (4)

In 2000 there was a complete redesign of the museum displays, we were told that the old exhibit pieces were possibly in storage. Walking around the current exhibits, which are now habitat groups native to the Black Hills, conservation and history we spied several pieces of art, partially hidden in the back corner of the small CCC display. Hoping it was Morris Gollub’s work we asked Park Naturalist, Julie Brazell for access to it and their archives.

Thank you Julie for accomodating us during your busiest season, you are such an asset to Custer State Park.  And our appreciation extends to the staff and volunteers at the park, without your insight and park memories we would not have made the connection to the parks probable WPA art.

It was explained that this “hidden “art had been part of the previous exhibit which remained on display for 60 years.

While comparing one of the pieces, to the photo of the 1937 student technicians at work, there was a heart stopping moment…“This watercolor appears to be the same painting displayed in the 1937 photo… this is the the original art with good color, little wear…has it really be in this room, displayed for the last 75 years ?…is this Works Progress Administration (WPA) art?”.

 

Thank you to Peggy Sanders, author of “The Civilian Conservation Corps In and Around the Black Hills” for finding the CCC camp newspaper that documents the student technicians who arrived at Custer State Park, during the summer of 1937, to make the displays for the new museum. Other park photos seem to suggest that they were housed and worked in CCC type barracks.

Could they have been funded through the WPA National Youth Administration (NYA), as many college students were back then?  This is plausible because the NYA was a massive and popular New Deal work program designed to keep students in school. Did they stay in a nearby CCC camp, like Camp Lodge?

At the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland there are South Dakota WPA microfilm records. Perhaps the definitive answer may lie within these source documents and this rediscovery of the “student technicians” art is the foundation for future research.

We also visited the South Dakota CCC Museum, which is conveniently located in the Hill City Visitors Center  , 23935 Hwy 385. Unknown to us but, the timing of our arrival coincided with a presentation that former CCC boy Jay Henderson was giving for local park personnel.

What luck.

Connecting the dots, meeting those with the same interests and learning more about the CCC and the New Deal era…well, that’s what this research and trek is all about.

 

__________________________________

(1) James Klimo to Edward Rowan in Washington DC describing his experiences, inspirations and creations made at the Rushmore Pine Creek CCC camp during the summer of 1934.

(2) November 17, 1934 letter from Edward rowan to James Klimon in Mount Vernon Iowa, acknowledging the shipment of four sculptures. ( Authors note: Two of these sculptors would be included in the 1935 CCC National Exhibit)

(3) Letter June 29, 1934 , Herbert Mair, District Officer ECW to Harold Norbeck c/o Hon. Peter Norbeck, U.S. Senate Washington, D.C.

(4) CCC camp Lodge newspaper, “The Lodge Scalper” June 9, 1937, page 5 “Flashes From the Field

2012 Trek – St. Louis, Eldora & Mason City

The new location for the National Archives and Personnel Administration records center , 1 Archives Drive, St.Louis, Missouri is conveniently located off Interstate 270…if you are using a navagational system like the Garmin 460T (for trucks) or Microsoft Streets and Trips…enter Dunn Road. The visitor parking lot has a large spot that was perfect for parking “16 Tons”. To all the “Archive Specialists” who researched our multiple requests for CCC, WPA and WW I & II military records, we appreciate your efforts and enjoy working with you.  Within those source files we found several gems  that will support and better explain the “Idle Artists of the Great Depression” research. Thank you.

                       
As luck would have it our route north was very near Eldora, Iowa. We were able to connect with Becky Rose from the CCC/POW Recreational Hall & Museum located on  the Harden County Fairgrounds during the annual county fair. What started out as her daughters 4-H project has turned into a major restoration labor of love for Becky; starting with a new foundation, windows and removing crumbling corn wallboard on the former Recreation Hall for the Pine Lake CCC camp.


The boys of the Pine Lake Co # 1752, called themselves the “Erosioners”, this was the Dust Bowl era and theirs was a soil conservation project. They planted trees and worked until 1941 making Pine Lake State Park a recreational area .

The original camp was not dismantled in 1942 because it became a German POW camp. During WW2 the “United States began taking prisioners… they decided to bring them to the Midwest for the following reasons:

* Ships were going over full, but coming back empty.

*Brought men to the food source.

*Provided a work force to harvest crops and work in factories.

*Prisoners saw how a Democratic Republic government worked.” (1)

Becky we applaud your hard work and wish you well with future efforts that will be required to save this CCC/POW structure from further erosion. It is so important that it be preserved for future generations, it is a gem, a part of our American history and an Iowa treasure.

Among the exciting stops on this trek are the ones where we find original CCC art. In Mason City, Iowa we found a fabulous collection. Thank you to Terry Harrison, Historian and Archivist at the Mason City Public Library for providing us access to the CCC art of Francis Robert White (1907-1986) and Tom Rost.

Although Edward Rowan, Assistant Director in the Treasury Department of Painting and Sculpture was not born in Iowa he lived, worked, married and had children in this “Fields of Opportunity”, “Life Changing” state. He became the hard working Director of the Little Gallery in Cedar Rapids…his efforts in bringing art to Iowa was noticed…in 1933 he was invited to DC for a
temporary a position in the Treasury Department that would administer the newly created Public Works of Art Project (PWAP).

In the summer of 1934, writing from his DC office, Rowan counseled the next Little Gallery Director, Francis Robert White.   Prior to White assuming the arduous duties at the gallery Rowan arranged for White to enroll and spend a month with CCC Co #841 in the Shoshone National Forest. White had requested to be sent somewhere remote, a rustic, out west location and found the routine at the forestry camp in Cody, Wyoming, rigorous and enjoyed the “natural hardships” he described the mountains as the most beautiful he had ever seen.(2)

White created outstanding watercolors, pen and ink pieces while there and Rowan was extremely impressed with his work, some of which would be included in the 1935 CCC National Exhibit in DC “Life in the CCC” which was opened by Eleanor Roosevelt.“who had a vision for what the arts could mean in a democracy.”(3)

When White completed his months time in Cody he returned to Iowa and wrote to Rowan in DC “I was kept very busy indeed. In order to get to the various points from which I made drawings it was sometimes necessary to make a full day’s journey, by car, foot, or horse back. I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to view the country for anything. It has soaked into me deeply and makes me wish to return some time.” (4)

Tom Rost  (1909-2004) was a young Wisconsin art student who caught the attention of Charlotte Partridge, Director and co-founder of the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Partridge was greatly respected by Rowan for her “influence and teachings” which resulted in the “fine showing of Wisconsin artists”(4)

Rosts’ career began when he enrolled in the West Allis, Wisconsin – Honey Creek Parkway CCC camp in November 1935. He remained there for a little over  5 months and depicted, in colorful watercolors and woodcuts, the day-to-day life and work of  CCC Co #656.  In a letter to Partridge Rowan mentioned the CCC work of Tom Rost was very popular and his work would be included in the 1935 CCC National Exhibit in DC, the 1935-1936 San Diego Expo and one of his paintings was selected to hang in the White House, at Eleanors’ request. (5)

Rost found little or no work as an artist once he left the CCC and was one of the few CCC artists that Rowan kept a professional connection with.   In January 1936 Rowan writes “I should very much like to hear from you as to what you are doing at the present time…remembering the fine work you did in the CCC. I am anxious to help you continue your art work”(6)

Rost would remain associated with the Treasury Department art projects, he received the commission for three post office murals and would find work, as an illustrator, with Field and Stream magazine.   Some of Rosts’ CCC art can be found in the Smithsonian collection of American Art.

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(1) Civilian Conservation Corps/Prisoner of War Recreational Hall & Museum, Eldora, Iowa brochure
(2) September 1934 – Robert Francis White writes to Edward Rowan that he has arrived at the camp and describes his surroundings.
(4) October 2, 1934 letter from Robert Francis White to Edward Rowan…sending in all the work he created while at the Cody, Wyoming camp and remarking on his personal experience.
(3) http://www.whitehousehistory.org/whha_shows/eleanor_roosevelt/theme_my-day-causes.html The White House Historical Association
(4) February 19, 1935 letter from Edward Rowan to Tom Rost at the Honey Creek Parkway CCC camp.
(5 & 6)  May 15, 1935 Letter from Edward Rowan to Charlotte Partridge

 

Charles C. Foster, CCC Artist

Idle Artists of the Great Depression – A Pictorial Record of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Charles  Foster  (1913 – 2012)

Four years after the stock market crash of 1929 America was grappling with a profound economic depression. One quarter of the nation was unemployed and a staggering number were hungry and homeless.   Newly elected president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) wasted little time as he and his and his administrations scrambled to right the ship of a floundering America.  Within days of his March 4, 1933 inauguration, FDR would propose the first of his New Deal work programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and one way he would garner support for this program would be by publicity.

During this desperate time, art and the purchase of it seemed irrelevant. A New York City matron would proclaim, “How can I buy art when people are starving”.

Of all the New Deal programs, the CCC was FDR’s favorite and by the summer of 1933, it quickly took hold and began to flourish.  Before the end of the year another the government make work program was initiated, the Civil Works Authority (CWA). Using reserves from the CWA, the first ever federally funded art program, The Public Works of Art Project was organized

During the PWAP months both male and female artists were given assignments to create art that would depict the “American Scene”.  A few  were selected and sent into CCC camps to make a pictorial record and their arrival was announced in the national CCC newspaper “Happy Days“.[1]

Both FDR and CCC Director Robert Fechner recognized the positive results an artistic interpretation of the CCC would offer the program. Artists produced a varied collection of oils, watercolors, woodcarvings, sculptures and drawings, from portraits to landscapes, depicting life and work in the camps. The art was displayed in the Corcoran Museum of Art and, at Eleanor’s request,  some of this work was displayed in the White House.

The PWAP was administered by a special section within the Treasury Department and was headed by Edward Bruce.  Through his leadership, the PWAP program provided temporary work for 3,749 unemployed artists of ability. This income was sorely needed during the harsh winter of 1933-1934. Although it was short lived, lasting a mere five months, it was pivotal to the American art world and would lay the foundation for future government programs that would sponsor the arts and artists.

When the funding ended, Edward Bruce was anxious to continue the help for struggling artists and approached CCC Director Fechner with a unique proposal. Bruce suggested that artists be employed and assigned to CCC camps as Art Instructors.  Fechner met with FDR and although there are no chronicles of this conference, (simply because President Roosevelt allowed no recordings of Oval office meetings) there are copies of Fechner’s follow up letters to Edward Bruce.

Director Fechner inflexibly detailed the presidents’ “idea”.  FDR approved the employment of male artists in CCC camps, but not as instructors. They would enter as regular enrollees for six months and work 40 hours a week. Their compensation would be the full $30 monthly allotment. They would provide their own supplies and art created would become the property of America. CCC Artists would be exempt from camp and fatigue duty but were not eligible for advancement or promotions. Fechner set a limit of 100 artist assignments during each 6-month period. For PWAP Director Edward Bruce this was a disappointing arrangement but, it was all he was offered and there were only four months left in the third enrollment period, time was of the essence.

Bruce turned to his able staff in the Treasury Department, William Johnstone and Edward Rowan. Together they had managed the previous assignments of PWAP artists to CCC camps. Ultimately, it would be Edward Rowan who would direct the CCC artist program until it ended in 1937.

Night letters were sent to inform and instruct the district art directors, nationwide, of this new program; quotas were given along with a request for immediate recommendations, arrangements for transportation and assignments would follow.  At the same time, Rowan was coordinating with the Army a list of appropriate camps, whose commanders were notified to expect and accommodate these new enrollees with the status of “artist enrollee”.

Among the first group of untried young men to enroll was Jacksonville native and self-taught portrait artist, Charles Clarence Foster (1913 – 2012). Fortunately, for Charles Foster his paperwork was processed quickly even if there was a miscommunication regarding the $30 monthly allotment; $25 was sent home to his mother.  On July 25, 1934, Charles received instructions and a train ticket to Decatur, Alabama, a 24-hour journey from Florida.  As the train moved through Alabama Charles found himself joined by other newly enrolled CCC boys and as a group they advanced to their final destination, Moulton, Alabama.

The Moulton train depot was 6 ½ miles south of the CCC camp. There they were “met by a driver and one of those 1 ½ ton trucks that had been fitted with board seats. This was my introduction to the tooth-rattling rides I was to experience many times”.[2]

Charles felt that Eve Alsman Fuller, PWAP Director for Florida, was responsible for his CCC artist position and he never knew the how and whys someone from Jacksonville, Florida was assigned to a CCC camp in northern Alabama. But, he was well prepared when he arrived at Company #463 with his homemade footlocker containing his art supplies and a “beautiful mahogany and brass camera”.  He quickly assimilated into the daily routine at Camp Joe Wheeler, all while observing, painting and drawing during his two-month stay.[3]

The twelve miles of road construction and forestry work along with the building of a cast cement bridge was hot and dirty work for Company 463, especially during an Alabama summer. The site for Camp Joe Wheeler was ill conceived. The natural spring, which was expected to supply the camp, dried up during summer months and this resulted in a severe water shortage that no amount of well digging would resolve. Water had to be transported daily from the town of Moulton and the each boy was allotted just a canteen cup to brush their teeth.[4]

Charles, however, with a position of resident artist (a status that confused the company commanders) availed himself to one of the benefits that came with staying in camp during the day. He and the cooks were the only enrollees allowed to shower daily, all the others were trucked into town for their 10 cent baths. This lack of water may account for the unsatisfactory inspection reports the camp received; the kitchen, infirmary and latrines were deemed unclean with offensive odors. [5]

And then there were the bedbugs…” they would hide during the day in the torn tarpaper insulation on the walls of the barracks and then come out in full force at night…I was careful to keep everything I owned away from the wall. Even that did not keep them away…I learned from the other boys to get gasoline in a Coke bottle, take the bed clothes off, and pour it into all the places in my cot where bedbugs could be….prior to my coming to camp, one of the barracks had been destroyed by fire and it occurred to me that  this gasoline treatment for bedbugs could have been the cause of it.”[6]

Charles prevailed upon the head forester, Mr. Disiker, that it was impossible to set up an easel and paint in a barracks full of energetic CCC boys. This was a familiar complaint that Edward Rowan, back in the Washington DC offices, would hear repeatedly from artists at the camps. Charles was among the fortunate artists to find a sympathetic ear with those in command. They provided him a vacant forester’s cabin, he moved in and made himself a satisfactory studio in which to live and work.

Considering the lack of water, it is no surprise that there was no darkroom at the camp. Charles brought his own film but he needed special developing equipment to process it. The people of Moulton were very accommodating to the CCC boys in the forest and the local photographer graciously opened his darkroom to Charles; allowing him to process and print his photographs.  The images made of the camp and surrounding area brought 25 cents a print and for 50 cents Charles would customize the boys’ footlockers by painting them with their names, this income supplemented his $5 monthly allowance.

At the end of the enrollment period, September 30, 1934, Charles packed up his supplies and personal belongings into his homemade footlocker and returned to Jacksonville, Florida. Because of the water problem, the camp was abandoned and moved to another location.  Decades later Charles returned to Decatur and was unable to find a footprint of Camp Joe Wheeler but did spot, what he believed, was the remains of the cement bridge.

At least one and possibly two boxes of Charles’ art was shipped from the camp to the Treasury Department in DC. Edward Rowan acknowledged the receipt of two oils and six watercolors. Rowan wrote Charles and complemented him by stating, “I am putting aside the water color “C.C.C. Architecture” to call to the attention of Mrs. Roosevelt and Mr. Robert Fechner.”   In addition another watercolor, “Building Dam”, was also singled out for exhibition at the March 1935 “Life in the CCC”  at the National Museum in Washington, DC.[7]

Charles continued his artistic endeavors joining the WPA Florida Federal Arts Project in Jacksonville and was an administrator in charge of distributing exhibits. While there, he met writer, Veronica Huss and photographed the project she was working on, which was never published. [8] Fifty years later Charles collected the writings and with his photographs published:  “Conch Town  USA – Bahamian Fisherfold in Riviera Beach, Florida.”  He built historical musical instruments; violas and harpsichords and even played the banjo when he joined the CCC camp band.  When he left Florida, he made his home for many years within the artistic environment of New Orleans but was forced to move after Hurricane Katrina. Charles wrote poetry and composed a piano Sonatina and a ballet for the United Nations. He taught at the Miami Technical High School and was an advertising art director. Because of his breath of interests, skills and accomplishment, he has been called a “renaissance man. [9]He has two children, Chuck in University Place, Washington and daughter Jeanne Foster, in Berkeley, CA. He was predeceased by his wife of 60 years Buford Mecklin Foster.

Charles Foster passed away on March 21, 2012 at Allenmore Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.

——————————————–
In 2009 I had the pleasure of connecting with Charles.[10]  We stayed in touch via emails, telephone and snail mail.  On several occasions, we would ask each other the same nagging question: “What became of his art, and the art work of the other CCC artists?”

In the spring of 2010 I had the good fortune of finally meeting him.  He was living with his son Chuck and daughter-in-law Dorothy in University Place, Washington. They graciously welcomed us into their home and for the better part of a day; I listened and learned from one of the early CCC artists. It was sad to hear that his eyesight was failing, which made painting difficult if not impossible but, Charles remained optimistic. When I last spoke with him in December 2011, he was 98 and recovering from experimental eye surgery that he hoped would restore his vision.

Because Charles had the equipment and presence of mind to photograph some of his work, we are fortunate to have black and white copies of him and his CCC art. A majority of the images in this CCC artist monograph are credited to him.

With my friend and mentor, Charles Foster, I always found approval and encouragement.  I assured him my research would continue as would the search for the art and stories of the” Idle Artists of the Great Depression”  and their pictorial record of the CCC.

 


[1] Happy Days, February 2, 1934, page 1

[2]  NACCA Journal “Vol. 26, Number 6, June 2003 “Life As An Artist in the CCC” Charles C. Foster

[3] Civilian Personnel records for Charles C. Foster, CCC Enrollment

[4] Ibid

[5] NARAII, CCC Inspection Reports, Co # 463, RG-35, Alabama,AF1-P54, Box 1, E115

[6] Ibid

[7] Letter from Edward Bruce to Charles Foster October 30, 1934, NARA II, RG 121, Box No 2, C-F, Entry 142

[8] Bob  Pasquell, Jr. interview with Charles Foster

[9] Obituary by son Chuck Foster, University City, Washington March 2012

[10]  CCC Author Bob Pasquill, Historian and Archeologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Alabama, kindly provided me with this lead… Thank you again Bob.

Boys of Bergen

SPEAKING SCHEDULE

April 10, 2012 – The Boys of Bergen” – 7 PM – Fort Lee Museum (the Judge Moore House),
1588 Palisade Avenue, Fort Lee, NJ 07024, 201-592-3580.
Their website: http://www.thefortleehistoricalsociety.org/home.html

March 20, 2012 – “The Boys of Bergen”
Fort Lee Historic Park (Hudson Terrace just south of George WashingtonBridge).
Reception 7 pm, Multi-Media presentation and talk at 7:30 pm. Sponsored by the New Jersey
Palisades Interstate  Park. 201-768-1360 ext 110

March 22, 2012 – ”  The Boys of Bergen”
Nanuet Public Library, 149 Church Street, Nanuet, NY 10954
7 pm Multi-Media presentation and talk. Sponsored by the Adirondack Mountain Club NJR Chapter. Map and directions

CCC Artists – Who Were They?

The Civilian Conservation Corps Art Program (CCC) 1934 – 1937

There were few, if any options for artists in January of 1934. It was the beginning of a new year and a hard winter during the height of the Great Depression. It is said to have been the cruelest of times. A month earlier the government had initiated the first ever federally funded art program.   The Public Works of Art Program (PWAP). Unemployed artists, of ability, were offered assignments to create work that would depict the “American Scene”.  Among them a few  selected artists  were sent into CCC camps to make a pictorial record. The PWAP was administered by a special section within the Treasury Department and met with the direct approval of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), CCC Director Robert Fechner and overwhelming support of Eleanor Roosevelt.  The CCC assignments, perhaps not as esteemed, required a person who was physically fit and adaptable to out of doors work. It is no surprise that a majority of the CCC artists were young. When the PWAP ended in the spring of 1934 so did almost all government funding for unemployed artists. Again, with FDR’s direct approval arrangements were made to continue the role of a CCC artist.

My discovery of this quiet part of American Art history was accidental.  In researching a CCC camp in the Adirondack Mountains a photo was found of a young man, Hans Held, posing in a studio setting surrounded by his CCC art. Beside him was a work in progress, a large mural painting depicting the forest activities and work of the CCC boys. This art would eventually grace an entire wall of the CCC camp Recreation Hall.  The caption beneath the official CCC photo described him as  “Camp Artist”.  (1)

It took a few moments to register the meaning of the photograph.

There were artists at the CCC camps?

Further research revealed that Hans Held was one of many artists assigned to CCC camps. Questioning every source I knew of at the time left all of my queries unanswered.    Who were these artists, why were they doing this, what became of them and their art and why the CCC?  What was found was that this research had never been done before.

What started out as quest to find the story of Hans Held and his CCC artist assignment has evolved into a project that will take years and countless miles of travels.

It did not take long to realize why this program has been unsearched.  Perhaps because the CCC artist program was massive. It encompassed almost all the lower 48 states, lasted 3 ¾ years and involved hundreds of people. Many of the records are
scattered and the art missing.

For many untried young artists the CCC tour would be the beginnings of their careers and for several older, seasoned artists it is what kept them from pounding the pavement in search of work and off the bread lines during the Great Depression.


The CCC Artist Research:
Notes from the 2011 treks in search of the art, artist and the stories of the: “Idle Artists of the Great Depression – A Pictorial Record of the CCC” begins with the research of an Iowa artist.

John Sharp – CCC Artist 1934 – NY, Rockland CCC camps
Photographing the original CCC art of Iowa artist John Sharp in Eldon, Iowa was a prearranged stop on the summer 2011 trek. As was a visit to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch which gave us a better understanding of the 31st US President and also insight into the relationship with his successor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt the 32nd US President (2)

We found a nice county park campground situated between Eldon and West Branch , in Ainsworth, Iowa and set down the levelers on our bus for several days. The county park is a popular one – Marr Park – Washington County Conservation Center. Returning one evening,  after a days research, we were  surprised by an unexpected balloon launch.

Around this time the national news was reporting possible GPS navigation problems because of “sun spots”.   What should have been a straight route between Ainsworth and Eldon was a puzzling series of directions that pointed us into the middle of Iowa cornfields and onto private dirt roads. Perhaps an easier route (sans a Garmin 465T Nuvi) existed in the early 1930’s when those traveling to Eldon, to experience an experimental art exhibit, arrived in the small booming railroad community of “2,000 inhabitants where many had never seen an original work of art.   Edward Rowan (3)

Edward Rowan, Director of the Little Gallery in Cedar Rapids received a grant from the Federation of Arts and brought a month long art exhibition to the small town of Eldon, situated in the lower Des Moines River Valley (3)

Rowan also arranged for drawing and watercolor classes along with art and music appreciation sessions, free of charge to the general public.  Weekly exhibits were well received as was the work of Iowa artists, Grant Wood of Cedar Rapids and the young, aspiring Eldon artist, John Sharp (1911-1966).

Eldon history credits the inspiration for the house seen in the famed “American Gothic” painting by Grant Wood to a driving tour John Sharp gave Wood on his first visit.   The hope for a permanent art museum in Eldon or Cedar Rapids never materialized but the careers of Wood, Rowan and Sharp would be forever changed. (4)

The Eldon Carnegie Public Library, dedicated in 1913, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is just up the block from the childhood home of John Sharp. The busy town is said to have had 13 grocery stores in the 1930’s. After a time the railroad would no longer run through Eldon and by 2009 the population had dwindled to 967.   (4,5)

Sharp was an established artist living in New Hope, PA when the local newspaper reported one of his return visits to his parents still living in Eldon. The article highlighted the donation of his art to the town and how successful he had become.  Sharp never forgot his Iowa roots and the small town of Eldon has never forgotten John Sharp.

Two of Sharp’s oils and one large framed reproduction of a WPA post office mural (Sharp did three post office murals) can be found inside the Eldon Carnegie Library. To the right of the entrance, prominently placed is the portrait of “Sam & Dave”, two Pennsylvania Dutch farmers.

But the expected CCC art was not in the library, my heart sank.  A few phone calls by the Librarian and Director (Thank you Brenda and Christina) directed us to the American Gothic House Museum, on the other side of town. There we found the two John Sharp CCC “colored pencil drawings” from 1934, the ones we had traveled to see.

The drawings depict typical interior scenes of a Rockland County, New York CCC camp during that cold winter of 1934.  Sharp “wouldn’t paint anything unless it was something that really struck his fancy” (6)

Exhilarating as it was to finally see these two drawings there was an unexpected and puzzling find.

In 1933 – 1934, John Sharp was living at 36 Charles Street in Manhattan attending art school in NYC. He was among the artists, based on their qualifications and need of employment, selected to be included in the NYC, Region  2,  PWAP art program, a position wildly sought .  The subject matter assigned was the “American Scene” in all its phases.”   CCC camps were intentionally included, one way to show the life and work of this popular New Deal program. The PWAP CCC artists were both male and female and were given the title:  “Roving Artist” because they did not stay long at a camp.

Around the same time, Edward Rowan had accepted a PWAP Treasury Department appointment and moved to Washington DC.  He was now working very long and equally exciting days at the PWAP headquarters.  Grant Wood  remained in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was part of the Iowa PWAP, Region 7, subcommittee.  All three remained in communication. (7)

The two CCC drawings, by Sharp, that currently hang in the American Gothic Center gallery, appear to have the early matting and are in their original frames.  Just as they were sent from the Treasury Department in Washington DC over 77 years ago.

The reverse side of one frame has the original brown paper backing, now brittle and torn, it appears it may have been partially removed and then taped back. The other frame back has a newer paper backing.

Both have the official authentication sticker attached which denotes the PWAP DC headquarters address and the declaration: “This picture is the property of the United States Government”.  The sticker titles the art; artist, region (NY was Region 2) and both are dated March 24, 1934.  Also, on the frame with the original brown paper,  is an additional sticker from the Washington DC framer advertising their services. An indication that the complete framing was done in DC before shipment to Iowa.
On the front of both frames is the unmistakable, somewhat tarnished, official 1934 government issue brass plaque: Public Works of Art Project.

A question surfaces in regards to the finished framing of the two Sharp drawings. Was the art shipped framed with the glass ready to hang?

This would be very unusual; numerous letters from Rowan over the course of the CCC art program (8) address the disposition of the CCC art. In almost all cases framing was done by the receiving tax payer supported group, organization or government office. Canvases were shipped unstretched, watercolors and drawings packaged separately.  Yet the Washington DC framers advertising sticker on the back of the Sharp drawing suggests otherwise.

Were they framed in DC for another purpose?  The disposition date on the two Eldon pieces is March 24, 1934.


The following month there was an important exhibition in Washington DC.  April 24 – May 24, 1934, the Corcoran Gallery of Art hosted the “National Exhibition of Art” presented by the Public Works of Art Project.  The exhibit was to present a cross section of the work done under the project and for weeks there was a flurry of activity at PWAP DC headquarters preparing for it.

Night letters were sent to regions that were thinly represented requesting they ship their best PWAP work immediately, framing and mounting would be done in DC.  This show would be a pivotal exhibition in respect to validating the governments’ sponsorship of an Art Program.  A continuation of the program was hoped for, which would require more government support, a good showing was critical.

Displayed in the central gallery of the Corcoran Museum were several paintings depicting E.C.W. Camps, (ECW denotes Emergency Conservation Work – the early name for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)).  Among them was a “painting” by John Sharp titled: “A E.C.W Camp”. (9)

Perhaps there were multiple works, by Sharp, that were framed and readied for the exhibit and only one was selected? Perhaps the other two were shipped to Eldon?

Then there is the question regarding the camp number as written on the matt of the Recreation Hall image.

Unfortunately, the exact location of CCC Camp #46 remains a mystery.  It was not unusual, especially in the early days of organization of the CCC, for a company (who would carry their own company number of three or four digits) to move around to different camp locations to work on temporary projects. These projects/camps would also receive a number (usually one – three digits) which might explain the two digit, “Camp #46” seen on the matt front of “ECW Recreation Hall”.

Some projects/camps were short lived, existing for only a few months. When a camp/project was abandoned the company of CCC boys would be moved to another camp location.  Regrettably, there are holes in CCC reports and many records are missing.  Unfortunately, specifics for Camp #46, for now, fall into an unknown location.

But it is known that John Sharp was assigned to two CCC camps in Tuxedo and Blauvelt NY, both with train depots that still connect to NYC. It is also known that other PWAP “Roving” artists, also from NYC, were assigned to Rockland County, NY CCC camps as well. They would have been picked up at the train depot by a CCC company truck and transported around that way. In the winter of 1934 they didn’t stay long in the NY CCC camps. (10)

The art of John Sharp is preserved and displayed in Eldon, Iowa.  The approach to the small town is no longer a dirt road. Route 16 is a peaceful drive past fields of green corn stalks and an even greener rolling landscape of soybeans.  As you come into town the Eldon Carnegie Library is on your right. After your stop, continue down Elm Street and look for the brown historic markers which will guide you the short distance out of town to the American Gothic House.

Bring your camera.  The museum encourages it and even provides an assortment of sizes for the country dress, bib overalls and authentic glasses to be used to make a self-portrait in front of the historic “gothic” house. Curator Holly Berg not only assisted with the John Sharp research she also helped position us for our “Gothic” portrait and clicked the shutter.

We are grateful to all at the Eldon Carnegie Public Library, the town of Eldon, Iowa and the Curators, past and present, at the American Gothic Center for being so receptive to our visit as we continue with our journey and documentation of:

The Idle Artists of the Great Depression – A Pictorial Record of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

 

 

1 – CCC camp yearbook 1937 – Speculator New York and the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain, New York

2 – Herbert Hoover Presidential Library West Branch, Iowa

3 – News clipping, interviews and records in the collection of the  American Gothic Museum, Eldon Iowa (AGH)

4 – wapellcounty.org/americangothic/educate/eldon.htm

5 – Eldon Carnegie Public Library,  Eldon Iowa  (www.eldon.lib.ia.us)

6 – American Gothic Museum Collection –  Brother Ed Sharp May 1, 1988 letter courtesy AGH

7 – 1935  Official PWAP Report  page 2, 39.

8 – NARA records of the PWAP

9 – Art Exhibit program – April – May 1934 – John Sharp Art # 298

10 – First PWAP “Bulletin” issued by the Treasury Department – 1934

Special thanks to Al & Marlene Markus. Regrouping at your Colorado ranch was just the tonic we needed as we continue along with this research. Plus your view of the Rockies just knocked our socks off.