The Civilian Conservation Corps
Following years of prosperity, the stock market abruptly crashed in October 1929. Despite the efforts of the government's unprecedented but limited recovery programs under President Herbert Hoover, the United States slid into the Great Depression. Almost immediately after taking office in 1933, new President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a flurry of government programs designed to lift the country out of the depression. A top priority of the programs was to get the people out of bread lines and into sustainable work.
Thirty-seven days after Roosevelt's inauguration, the first enrollee signed into the Emergency Conservation Work, later re-named the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Unmarried, unemployed men age 18-25 were the first enrollees. Many young men came to the camps hungry and poorly clothed. They were issued uniforms and given three meals a day. Most young men gained about 40 pounds while in the CCC. The men earned $30 a month, most of which was sent home to their families.
The U.S. Army ran the camps, but foresters, carpenters and other people directed the work. The CCC fought forest fires, planted trees, built roads, buildings, picnic areas, swimming areas, campgrounds and created many state parks. When not working, the men socialized and had opportunities to learn crafts and skills.
CCC in Pennsylvania
From 1933 to 1942, hundreds of thousands of unemployed men worked in camps throughout Pennsylvania. Some camps were on army bases, some were in national parks, some worked with the soil conservation service, but most camps were in state parks and forests.
Pennsylvania had the second highest number of camps (151) to California. Pennsylvania received so many camps because it already had a plan in place for the camps, thanks to the forward thinking of Governor Gifford Pinchot.
In 1935, Roosevelt created the WPA (Works Progress Administration) which was similar to the CCC but used local people who lived at home. Many roads, buildings and bridges were built in Pennsylvania state parks.
The National Park Service built five Recreation Demonstration Areas through CCC and WPA labor. Near big cities to provide open-air recreation for urban dwellers, the areas were Blue Knob, Hickory Run, French Creek, Laurel Hill and Raccoon Creek. In 1945, these parks were given to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and became state parks.
A total of 194,500 Pennsylvania citizens served in the CCC nationwide. The value of the work completed by the CCC nationwide is estimated at $8 billion. The outbreak of World War II caused the ending of the CCC on June 30, 1942.
The CCC transformed the forests and natural areas of Pennsylvania and the United States and transformed all of the young men who were involved. Although it was a dark time for the economy and the many unemployed people, the conservation programs like the CCC and WPA greatly enhanced the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks.
CCC Museums in Pennsylvania State Parks
Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center at Parker Dam State Park
-- The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center at Parker Dam State Park
provides a look back in time to the 1930s and early 1940s. Photos, exhibits, videos and more illustrate the life and times of the CCC. The building itself was built by the CCC and functioned as the park office until 1984. The center is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4:00 PM during the summer season.
The Masker Museum at Promised Land State Park -- The Masker Museum at Promised Land State Park is one of the largest CCC museums in the commonwealth and features interactive stories, displays and artifacts. The museum is located off of Pickerel Point Road by the amphitheater and Pickerel Point Campground. Admission to the museum is free. The museum is usually open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Check with the park office to confirm hours. A section of the Masker Museum has natural history displays, children’s books, field guides, and a bird observation area. The museum also has a native plant garden and bird feeding stations.
CCC in Pennsylvania Online Archive
The Pennsylvania Civilian Conservation Corps Online Archive below has extensive information about the CCC in Pennsylvania.