Feb 12, 2018

The Civilian Conservation Corps: Depression-Era Beefcake

Picture it.

1933:  The heart of the Great Depression.  40% of the U.S. population is out of work.  President Roosevelt, just  inaugurated March 4th, promises a New Deal full of federal programs designed to get the economy started again.

Among the unemployed are many buffed young twinks, aged 18-25.  Roosevelt tries to think of a way to get them photographed with their shirts off in those days before the physique magazines.

He comes up with the Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC, who would be housed in work camps while engaging in federal improvement projects.

The first CCC camp opened on April 17th, 1933.  By July there were over 1,400 camps with over 250,000 young men at work (that's 10 hookups per day for 68 years).

At its peak in 1935, there were 500,000 workers in 2,900 camps.  Among them were future actors Raymond Burr and Walter Matthau.

There were also a few thousand older men (experienced workers), veterans, and Native Americans.

The CCC workers were unmarried (i.e., available), usually living at home and helping to support their parents.  They signed on for six months, with the option of returning for up to two years.

Apparently they weren't provided with shirts.

Their projects were diverse, involving soil conservation, making trails and shelters in state and national parks, building wildlife refuges, fighting fires, Here the CCC boys are at work on controlling the Mormon crickets that swarm in Nevada and Utah.  (Mormon cricket is the name of the species.)

Here they're posing with shovels in Bradford, Pennsylvania.

More after the break

The CCC Camps were organized like army camps, with barracks, mess halls, recreation halls, and camp stores.  There were lots of educational opportunities -- many CCC boys learned to read in the camps.  Here some Jewish boys from New York City learn about how a tree grows.

Plus sports and other recreational activities.  This is the Camp Vermillion boxing club.

Yes, the camps were segregated.  There were 143 black camps, with 200,000 workers.

What the millions of men who served in the CCC remember most is the camaraderie, the life-long friendships formed.

And the buffed physiques glistening in the sunlight.

Seriously, were they provided with shirts?

The CCC kept going until 1942, when young men were needed in the War.  Many of the camps were turned into internment camps for Japanese-Americans.


  1. This reminds me of the Primary that Never Ended. The side supporting the candidate whose spouse belonged to a white-only club decided to make it all about "we still had segregation in the 30s" and anachronistically claiming unions were exclusionary to this very day.

    I'm sure those New York boys know about trees. After all, a tree grows in Brooklyn.

  2. Seriously, Boomer, they were expected not to wear shirts. Norms were different then.

    And if you want to see a chest literally gleaming in the sun, check out one of the CCC's official statues, say that at https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-civilian-conservation-corps-ccc-worker-statue-watoga-state-park-west-147856736.html. The one at or https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-usa-montana-lolo-national-forest-ccc-worker-statue-in-savenac-historic-57708034.html is a bit different, but the same uniform.

  3. The last picture is puzzling because it seems to show a mixed race group. I was under the impression that the camps were either white or not, from what I have read. Even the armed forces were not desegregated until 1948.


No offensive, insulting, racist, or homophobic comments are permitted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...