The Menlo Roundtable

The Demise of the Civilian Conservation Corps: a Casualty of War

Why couldn’t the greatest American president of the 20th century provide a future for one of his most popular and effective programs?

Franklin Roosevelt consistently ranks in the top three greatest American presidents—after Lincoln and Washington—in surveys of presidential leadership. Aside from the beloved Fireside Chats and the wartime diplomacy, it was in his ambitious economic policies that he really made his mark in American history. Roosevelt “took job creation to a never-before-seen level in the U.S… [and] while he was immensely proud of all his New Deal programs, his crown jewel was the Civilian Conservation Corps.” For a decade, the CCC put young Americans to work on conservation and infrastructural projects around the country to great effect and broad approval. Find out why FDR tried so hard but ultimately failed to establish it as a permanent federal agency in Grant Dumanian’s “The Demise of the Civilian Conservation Corps,” a well-researched analysis of how even popular presidential preference can be thwarted.

Photo: Franklin Roosevelt, portrait by Jacob H. Perskie (1865–1941), FDR’s official photographer and portrait painter in the 1932 and 1936 presidential campaigns.