Nature's New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement

By Neil M. Maher | Go to book overview

FIVE/NATION
The Great Conservation Debate

In late October 1934, the American Fork and Hoe Company sent Paul Criss, “the spectacular axe-man,” to a CCC camp located near the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Surprisingly, Criss did not journey from the company’s headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, down to the Smokies to train Corps enrollees in the fine art of chopping wood nor to teach them how to properly fell a tree. Instead, the “axe-man” went to make an advertisement for a particular brand of ax manufactured by the company that would run in newspapers and magazines across the country (see figure 5.1). In the photograph for the ad, smiling young men from the Corps camp line up behind Criss, who stands holding a double-sided ax just above the exposed neck of a seated and understandably nervous CCC enrollee. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the face and neck of the seated enrollee are slathered in shaving cream. “Axes are not going to replace razors,” explains the copy just below the photograph, “but this again demonstrates the fine quality of Kelly Axes.”1

Throughout the New Deal era, manufacturers similarly enlisted the Corps to hawk a host of consumer goods to the American public. D. B. Smith and Company of Utica, New York, used photographs of CCC enrollees fighting forest fires in ads for their Indian water pumps, while the Warren Tool Corporation, the Bartlett Manufacturing Company, and the Case Company all mentioned the Corps when selling forestry and gardening tools, including tree pruners, pole saws, and bush hooks.2 Such ads were not limited to conservation-related products. The Mapleine Company of Seattle, Washington, used a picture of a CCC enrollee eating a plate of pancakes to sell maple syrup, and advertisers in agricultural regions employed images of the Corps’

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