Spotlight: Photographs Documenting the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

Executive Order 6101, which established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)*, was signed on April 5, 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was signed just one month into Roosevelt’s presidency, making the CCC one of the earliest New Deal programs. The program was by no means perfect and was met with some criticism. However, the CCC quickly proved to be a popular program, especially among those that benefited – specifically unmarried, unemployed men between the ages of 18 and 25 (that age range would later be expanded to 17 through 28), as well as their families. They earned $30 a month, of which they were required to send $25 home to their families.

35-GE-3B-3
Caption: CCC Enrollees Repairing a Truck at the Yosemite Auto Repair Shop in California. Local Photo ID: 35-GE-3B-3

According to John Salmond, author of The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942: A New Deal Case Study, “during its life span of nine years more than 2.5 million young Americans passed through the Civilian Conservation Corps.” Other estimates put the number of enrollees closer to 3 million. Of those millions, approximately 250,000 were African American and 80,000 were Native American.**

35-N-13-7
Caption: African American CCC enrollees with Lain L. Lee, who is directing auto painting at camp #2. Date: April 1938. Local Photo ID: 35-N-13-7
35-G-17C-2077
Original Caption: “Santa Clara Indian Reservation, Santa Fe, New Mexico. December 2, 1940. A member of the CCC ID crew cementing the joints in a pipe line which is being built on the Santa Clara Pueblo lands for the purpose of diverting irrigation and drinking water to the pueblo lands and surrounding areas.” Photo by WJ Mead. Local Photo ID: 35-G-17C-2077
35-N-17-3
Original Caption: “Camp exchange, CCC Company 5418, Witherbee, South Carolina. Enrollee clerk serves two customers at window of exchange. Money made from camp exchange is used to purchase athletic equipment for camp enrollees, at the same time giving enrollees experience in store management and salesmanship.” Local Photo ID: 35-N-17-3

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) operations depended upon the administrative support of five federal agencies: the Department of Labor responsible for CCC recruiting; the Veterans Administration responsible for selecting veterans for CCC programs; the War Department responsible for numerous needs of CCC trainees such as physical conditioning, medical care, food, clothing, and housing; and the Departments of Agriculture and Interior responsible for the planning and supervision of work projects.

CCC companies completed projects in conjunction with state and federal agencies, including but not limited to: the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Soil Conservation Service, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the United States Army, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as many local and state parks and forests.

95-GP-0382-Box0068_024_001_AC
Original Caption: “Lassen National Forest. CCC boys on tour Lassen Volcanic National Park.” Date: 7/15/1933. Photographer: Capt. Daniel Sheehan. Local Photo ID: 95-GP-382-285426
Landscape
Original Caption: “Group of CCC boys from Idaho just arrived in camp near Andersonville, Tennessee. The CCC units are to assist in the reforestation work on the Clinch River watershed above the Dam.” Date: 10/20/1933. Photographer: Lewis Hine. Local Photo ID: 142-H-83
35-NC-IV-10-E
Original Caption: “CCC Enrollees at Camp Beauregard setting out 150 rose bushes in Garden near entrance of camp.” Local Photo ID: 35-NC-IV-10-E

The organizational structure of the CCC, coupled with the fact that the CCC worked with various agencies, means that CCC photographs are not in a centralized location. In fact, photographs documenting CCC activities and companies are scattered throughout the United States and are housed within the collections of state libraries and archives, university libraries and archives, and within the collections of local historical societies. In terms of federal records, CCC photographs at the National Archives can be found interfiled among textual records, at the FDR Presidential Library, and within the collection of the Still Picture Branch.

35-GC-II-157-E2
Original Caption: “Enrollee working in kitchen. CCC 9. Miscellaneous Company 1273, Camp SCS-4. Hackettstown, New Jersey.” Local Photo ID: 35-GC-II-157-E2
35-TA-9
Original Caption: “Thlinget Indian CCC enrollees, under the supervision of Indian craftsmen, working on the Ebbets Pole at the Saxman Indian Villiage workshop, in the Tongass National Forest.”  Local Photo ID: 35-TA-9
35-NC-IV-6-E
Original Caption: “Negro enrollees tying turnip greens in bundles for market.” (Company 3499) Local Photo ID: 35-NC-IV-6-E

At the National Archives, Record Group 35 is where you will locate Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 – 1953. However, in terms of CCC photographs in the Still Picture Branch, we’ve noted that CCC images can be found within approximately 15 different record groups, covering approximately 50 different series.

Landscape
Original Caption: “San Fernando, California. Hitch-hiking. This Civilian Conservation Corps boy is returning to camp about thirty miles away after a weekend visit to his family in Los Angeles.” Date: 4/28/1940. Photographer: Rondal Patridge. Local Photo ID: 119-CAL-24
35-N-13-4
Original Caption: “CCC Enrollees planting trees on Little Round Top in Gettysburg, PA.”Date: 5/1936. Local Photo ID: 35-N-13-4
35-GC-IX-640-C8
Original Caption: “Headquarters Ninth Corps Area. Class in placer-mining (20 miles from Camp) Company 591 F-42; Superior, Montana.” Date: 6/1936. Photographer: L.Y. Leonard, Company 1998 F-52. Local Photo ID: 35-GC-IX-640-C8

To learn more about CCC photographs held in the Still Picture Branch,  researchers may wish to view a session from the 2018 Genealogy Fair titled How to Search for Photographs that Document CCC Camps & Activities. This session aims to be an overview of how to navigate CCC records held by the Still Picture branch. Additionally, during the presentation researchers are provided with a list of Still Picture series that contain CCC photographs, as well as information as to what type of research they should conduct prior to beginning their search for CCC imagery.

79-CCC-9-1001
Caption: CCC enrollees removing snow in
Washington, DC. Local Photo ID: 79-CCC-9-1001

 

Notes:

* The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was originally known as the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) program.

**Eleanor Roosevelt setup a women’s counterpart to the CCC, known as SheSheShe Camps, which employed approximately 8,500 women.

All photographs included in this blog post are held by the NARA Still Picture Branch. There are no known copyright restrictions on the images and as such, they may be used freely.

​PUBLICATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS FURNISHED BY THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES STILL PICTURE BRANCH-RDSS

Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.

Proper credit lines are encouraged in the interest of good documentation. They also help inform the public about government photographic resources that are available.

*Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy and electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.

Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:

National Archives photo no. 80-G-32500

Credit National Archives (photo no. 306-NT-186000)

Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 26-G-3422

National Archives (111-SC-202199)

If using a large number of our images, the National Archives will appreciate receiving copies of publications that contain our photographs. Such copies can be sent to the Still Picture Branch or the Library, National Archives and Records Administration.

8 thoughts on “Spotlight: Photographs Documenting the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

    1. Hi,

      CCC enrollee records are held at the National Archives at St. Louis. Information on how to request those records is available here: https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/civilian-personnel/ccc-holdings-access

      With regard to still photographs, we do not have a name index. Therefore, we won’t be able to locate any images of your father. That said, once you receive your father’s CCC personnel file, you can contact our department to see if we have any photographs of his company or the camp he worked at. Our email is stillpix@nara.gov

      -Kaitlyn

  1. would you have any information about the Civilian Technical Corps which was established around the same time by President Roosevelt?

    1. Hi,

      For information about the Civilian Technical Corps, I suggest contacting our Textual department (archives2reference@nara.gov) and/or the FDR Presidential Library (roosevelt.library@nara.gov). In terms of still photographs, we are happy to do a search within our holdings to see if we have anything related to the Civilian Technical Corps. You can send a request to us via email (stillpix@nara.gov). The photographs would likely be found within military photographs or the Office of War Information.

      -Kaitlyn

      1. Researchers interested in New Deal-era programs should know, although the New Deal was the brainchild of FDR, and enacted by the federal government, the programs were implemented at the local level (state, town, county, etc.) When researching these programs, not only go through the records at NARA in College Park, MD, and the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY but also at state archives for the area you are researching.

    1. Hi Susan,

      To get that type information, I suggest reaching out to the National Archives at St. Louis, which holds CCC enrollee records. Information about requesting CCC enrollee records can be found here: https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/civilian-personnel/ccc-holdings-access. However, please note that, due to the coronavirus public health emergency, National Archives research rooms and museums are closed to the public until further notice. You may want to submit a request after we have re-opened to the public.

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