|I get hundreds of letters each day and practically
every one carries the same story, hence I am positively convinced that
conditions are extremely bad, not only in our section but throughout the
Elmer Thomas to H. E. Diehl of Lawton, Oklahoma, May 21, 1932. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Subject Files, box 24, folder 50)
The Great Depression and the implementation of the New Deal saw the expansion of the federal governments power, but the executive branch was not the only one busy during those years. Most of the new programs and agencies came into existence only with congressional legislation and approval, and the papers of members of Congress are a rich resource for studying this historical era.
Congresswomen and men bring home the bacon; they obtain for their states and districts as much federal money and as many projects as possible. At no other time was this more important than during the Great Depression, when millions looked to Washington for relief, jobs, and money that would return the country to prosperity. Members of Congress collected clippings on the projects and programs carried out in their states and districts, and they corresponded with federal and state administrators. They also monitored mail and telegrams from constituents for reaction to federal and congressional activity. Citizens told of conditions, recommended passage of legislation, and asked for relief money and work projects. They worried about the future, theirs and the countrys. Some of these letters are in the Carl Albert Center archives, where they provide an insight into the lives and attitudes of Americans during that era.
The following papers contain varying degrees of material on the Great
Depression. Some, such as the Elmer Thomas Collection, are quite extensive.
Others like the Jed Johnson Collection contain only a smattering of items.
Wesley E. Disney
Helen Gahagan Douglas
Phillip C. Ferguson
P. L. Gassaway
Thomas P. Gore
Jed Johnson, Sr.
Robert S. Kerr
William H. Alfalfa Bill Murray
Robert L. Owen
William B. Pine
|The farmers are all in the same class. Brokefinancially,
underfeed.[sic] under clothed, all have the blues and disgusts.
John A. Garner, secretary of Farmers Union Local 370, to Elmer Thomas, November 10, 1931. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Legislative Series, box 4, folder 15)
Senator Elmer Thomas was very interested in agriculture. He served on the Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee and introduced much legislation, including the Thomas Amendment to the 1933 farm relief bill (the amendments purpose was to boost agriculture and commodity prices). There are three major series in his papers with material on the topic. First is the Subject Files, and under Agriculture in box 1 are several folders with correspondence, newsletters, press releases, bulletins, and reports on the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), cotton production, and farm subsidies. Additional materials can be found in box 6, under Federal Land Bank; box 7, under Food Stamps; boxes 13 and 14, under Loans; boxes 15-19, under Money; box 27, under Surplus Commodities; and box 31, under Wheat. Subtopics include agriculture and farm credit, corn, and trading and milling taxes.
The second series in the Thomas Collection is the Resource Files. In box 1 are folders containing various publications, pamphlets, and other distributions from the USDA, other federal agencies, and several non-governmental organizations. Of note are a 1938 soil survey of Woodward County, Oklahoma; a 1937 report of the Presidents Committee on Farm Tenancy; and the 1936 book The Future of the Great Plains.
The third pertinent series is the Legislative Files, which primarily contains constituent correspondence and legislation, but it also includes clippings, reports, and pamphlets. Most materials are filed under the general heading of Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Here are documents on the Federal Farm Board, relief, conditions, soil conservation, price stabilization, commodity credit, and parity prices. There is information on the demise and resurrection of the AAA and on proposals calling for silver as a medium of exchange for agricultural products. Wheat, cotton, livestock, and other commodities are also documented. Box 4 has three folders of responses to Thomass 1931 survey of conditions in Oklahoma. In box 47 are files on a 1941 conference of national agricultural leaders, organized by Thomas for the purpose of discussing parity prices, production costs, and price fixing on farm products.
Additional collections with material on agriculture include the papers of Wilburn Cartwright and Wesley E. Disney. The former contains, in box 1, folder 26, legislation and correspondence from the entire decade of 1930s. The latter holds scrapbooks with clippings from 1936-1940 on the federal agricultural projects, including the AAA; farm relief and food stamp programs, primarily in Rogers County, Oklahoma; and crop control.
The Milton Garber Collection contains some folders on pre-New Deal legislation, including early farmer relief bills and the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1932. There are also clippings and pamphlets on agriculture in general. Of note in box 3, folder 31, is a 1932 Republican National Committee campaign pamphlet titled Emergency Relief for Agriculture.
|Some 150,000 to 200,000 acres of our cultivated
land and a large portion of our grass land is literally blowing away for
the reason that for the past two years no vegetation has grown. Fields
are bare and pastures are without grass to hold the soil. Our roads are
blocked. Trucks from consolidated schools have been unable to take the
children to their schools.
F. E. Herring to Elmer Thomas, on conditions in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma, April 7, 1937. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Project Files, box 11, folder 7)
Probably because of Senator Elmer Thomass great interest in the plight of agriculture, his papers contain a substantial amount of material on drought relief and conservation. His Legislative Files, again under Agriculture and Forestry Committee, contain folders on both droughts. For the 1930-1931 one, there are correspondence, clippings, press releases, hearing transcripts, legislation, and reports that inform researchers on conditions as well as relief efforts primarily carried out by the Red Cross (see box 1, folders 63, 66, 67, and 71). For the 1934-1940 spell, several boxes contain folders titled Drouth or Soil Conservation under Agriculture and Forestry. In addition to conditions and relief, there is also information on feed and seed loans (box 16, folder 2), Indian drought relief (box 21, folder 69), and Oklahoma soil conservation projects (box 16, folders 33-58). Additional documents can be found under Appropriations Committee and elsewhere.
Other series in the Thomas Collection hold items on this topic. In the Subject Files, box 5 (under Drouth Relief) and box 26 (under Soil Conservation and Soil Erosion) have clippings and constituent correspondence that describe conditions, present relief requests, and reveal project criticism. They also contain USDA reports and press releases. Similar materials exist in the Subject B files and include correspondence resulting from a 1936 Red Cross survey of conditions in Leflore County, Oklahoma (box 31, folders titled Relief). The Project Files (box 16 and others ) contain yet more documents. Thomas Map 117 shows emergency drought counties in Oklahoma (1936).
Other collections also hold materials on the drought and soil conservation. The papers of Wilburn Cartwright (box 3, folders 49-50) contain copies of the correspondence of J. G. Puterbaugh, who oversaw the 1930-1931 Oklahoma committee on drought relief. Speeches by the congressman exist here and in box 42, folder 62. Clippings in box 53, folder 54, cover all drought years. In box 30, folder 37, is a 1934 campaign handbill in which Cartwright advertised assistance he provided to drought-stricken counties. Numerous clippings on the drought also exist in the Wesley E. Disney scrapbooks. The William H. Murray Collection contains the governors 1931 executive order urging Oklahomans to give to the Red Cross for drought and unemployment relief (box 2, folder 39). In the Lyle Boren Collection, the Subject Correspondence Files have folders labeled USDASoil Conservation Service that hold documents on that agencys operations in Oklahoma, especially the central part of the state. There are also documents on conditions, projects, and employment. The papers of Robert S. Kerr shows the long-lasting impact of the dry years. The Conservation Series of this collection is filled with materials from the 1950s and early 1960s, but it also holds a few soil conservation publications from the 1930s and early 1940s.
Only a few areas of Oklahomathe Panhandle and perhaps a few counties in the western part of the statecould be considered part of the Dust Bowl (a geographically amorphous term). The phrase appears in only a few places in the Carl Albert Centers finding aids. It is used to describe images of dust storms and ravaged farms in the Thomas and Helen Gahagan Douglas Photo collections. Also, the Elmer Thomas Project Files contain a Dust Bowl folder (box 4) that holds USDA publications on the prevention of blowing soil.
|Since 1935 the Farm Security Administration
has been making small loansaveraging about $350to needy farm families,
to enable them to get a new start on the land. Ordinarily such loans are
just large enough to finance the purchase of the seed, livestock, and equipment
necessary to carry on farming operations. They are repayable over a period
of from one to five years at 5 per cent interest.
Will Alexander, FSA administrator, statement before the Temporary National Economic Committee, p. 5, May 24, 1939. (Helen Gahagan Douglas Collection, box 129, folder 7)
A number of Carl Albert Center collections contain materials on the operations of the RA and FSA, especially in Oklahoma, for the years 1936-1941. There are also related items on tenancy and migration. The Subject Correspondence Files of the Lyle Boren papers contain folders labeled Farm Security Administration and USDAFarm Security Administration, which hold correspondence on the states FSA programs, on the agencys personnel issues, and on constituent problems. Also, the file titled D. P. Trent has letters between the congressman and this head of the RAs Dallas office. In the Wesley E. Disney Collection, the scrapbook for April 1938 contains a few clippings on loans made to Major County, Oklahoma, farmers, the first FSA loan recipients in the state. In the Wilburn Cartwright papers, two folders (box 15, folders 36 and 47) contain correspondence between the agencies and the congressman on programs and benefits provided to southeastern Oklahoma (including a project at Lake Murray). Some reports are also included. In the P. L. Gassaway papers (box 55, folder 13) is an undated memo from the National Committee on Small Farm Ownership on the status of farm tenancy in Oklahoma. Although most items in the Helen Gahagan Douglas Collection date from a later time period, there are a few 1938-1940 FSA publications, especially on agency activity in California (box 129,folders 4 and 7).
The Elmer Thomas Collection contains several pertinent documents. The Subject Files hold materials on the FSA (box 6) and RA (box 25), and these include correspondence, clippings, press releases, and other documents on loans, projects, agency offices, medical care, and employment. Of particular interest is I was a Share Cropper, an illustrated booklet printed by Texas and Oklahoma FSA employees and highlighting the agencys successes in those states. Related materials also exist under Loans (boxes 13-14) and in the Subject B files. Other folders of interest exist in the Project Files, mainly in boxes 4 and 15. The Legislative Files for 1937 under Agriculture and Forestry Committee have a few folders (in boxes 28 and 29) on the Farm Tenant (Bankhead-Jones) Act and resettlement issues. Additional items on farm tenancy are scattered throughout this series.
An enduring legacy of the New Deal is the FSA photographs that agency employees shot to document agricultural and rural conditions during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Several well-known photographers, including Dorothea Lange, worked on this project. Lange gave several prints of her work to Helen Gahagan Douglas, who was interested in the plight of migrant workers. Consequently, the CACs Douglas Photo Collection contains many famous images of the so-called Okies en route to California and in the migrant labor camps there (these images are also available in the FSA/OWI Collection at the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress).
|We have had in this state 500 closed state
banks. A few were reopened and many have been fully liquidated. . . . I
think it safe to estimate that the actual amount of deposits which have
been paid through liquidation will approximate 30%, the balance being a
L. R. Baird, Receiver, North Dakota, to Elmer Thomas, November 7, 1933. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Legislative Files, box 10, folder 24)
Various collections held by the Carl Albert Center contain materials on banking. In boxes 1 and 7 of the Robert L. Owen Collection are a few hearing transcripts and other legislative documents on the Banking Act of 1935. The James McClintic Collection contains two folders titled Bank Deposits (box 2) with various documents on deposit insurance. McClintic claimed to have authored deposit guarantee legislation as early as 1921, and he supported the measures of the 1930s. The William H. Murray Collection contains one folder with correspondence on the bank holiday (box 1, folder 23). Folder 5 of the William B. Pine Collection contains a 1938 address of Edward E. Brown, president of First National Bank of Chicago, on banks of deposit. There is also a 1934 draft of an article in the New York Daily News on Pines 1928 prediction that small bank failures in the South and West during the 1920s would cause an economic Depression. The senator, a Republican, also thought Herbert Hoover would ruin the country. Folder 16 contains clippings on banking. In the Thomas Legislative Files (box 10) are three folders of 1933 correspondence to and from state banking officials about bank failures. Located in the same box is a list of Oklahoma banks that closed between January 1, 1927, and November 1, 1933.
|There are thousands of Veterans unemployed,
and [sic] many of whom have families that are in actual need and no chance
for employment. In addition to this there are rumors that the shelters
are going to be closed and the Veterans Kitchen likewise. These rumors
are tending to create another idea in the minds of some eight or ten thousands
of veterans and that idea is this: Go to Washington in body by whatever
means of transportation that can be obtained and inquire in person just
what reason there is that the United States Government can loan money to
bankers, send money to Europe and cannot pay what is justly due the Veterans.
Paul Busby and Patrick Harkins to Elmer Thomas, April 18, 1932. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Legislative Series, box 6, folder 10)
In the Cartwright Collection are folders titled Bonus Legislation and World War Veterans Legislation that contain correspondence, clippings, legislation, and lists of congressional supporters. There also exist statements by the congressman and President Hoover on the Bonus bill and such related legislation as that concerning interest on loans against the certificates and restoration of forfeited rights to compensation and pensions. The Speech Files hold additional items.
Elmer Thomas discusses his involvement in Forty Years a Legislator (pp. 131-142). In addition, there are numerous documents, similar to those in Cartwright, in the Legislative Files (under Finance Committee and Veterans) and the Subject Files (under Money and Veterans). There is a great deal of correspondence with constituents and the general U. S. public, as well as copies of Thomass 1933 bill. In the Subject Files (box 15) are form letters Thomas sent out indicating the progress of the failed 1932 legislation and occasionally describing activities of the Bonus marchers in Washington. There are also materials on the Veterans Administration (VA), hospitals, pensions, and insurance.
Other papers with pertinent materials are those of Lyle Boren, Thomas P. Gore, Wesley E. Disney, and Milton Garber. The Disney scrapbooks contain clippings on 1936-1937 congressional attempts to pass bonus legislation. The Garber materials are of some interest because the congressman was the lone Republican in the Oklahoma delegation at the time, and he also sponsored a bill for payment of certificates. Pertinent items in this collection can be found under Adjusted Compensation for Veterans, Veterans, and American Legion.
|There has been a CCC camp located in this
community for the past eighteen months and it has been our pleasure to
observe the functioning of both the Army and SCS [Soil Conservation Service]
officials, and the observation has disclosed the fact that the CCC has
a two-fold purpose, that of reclaiming our eroded and wornout soil and
that of building men, building men out of boys who have never had the opportunities
afforded our own sons.
H. N. Courtney, chairman of CCC committee, Konawa, Oklahoma, to Lyle Boren, May 29, 1937. (Lyle Boren Collection, box 76, USDACCC folder)
In the Subject Files of the Elmer Thomas Collection (in boxes 3 and 4) are additional materials. Most of these documents are constituent correspondence, and topics include the establishment, continuance, or closure of particular Oklahoma camps between 1935 and 1941. The camps documented were mostly engaged in forestry soil conservation. In these files, researchers can find correspondence on the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) in Oklahoma
and 1936 issues of the Oklahoma Soil Conservation Newsletter. There are also requests for a Lake Murray camp for African-Americans and communications on conditions in camps. Scattered in Thomass Legislative Files are documents on bills affecting CCC personnel and wages.
Additional materials also exist in the collections of Wesley E. Disney (scrapbook clippings) and Lyle Boren (in Subject and Legislative Files). Topics similar to those in Thomas and Cartwright are covered. The Boren papers have documents on the congressmans failed attempts to make the CCC permanent (box 112) and a few letters on African-American camps in Oklahoma (box 76).
|I saw one of your workers bloody another
mans nose last night for speaking ill of you. This man defended you because
he said, you had the courage of your convictions, and that you were honest
in what you were doing, regardless of other circumstances. He said, The
Old Man has principal and damned if we dont need more of the same thing
in the world today.
letter from Your Friend to William B. Pine, December 19, 1937. (William B. Pine Collection, box 1, folder 1)
The Carl Albert Center holds the collections of at least two who opposed unionization. William B. Pine owned the Pine Oil Company, which experienced a sit-down strike in 1937-1938. He stubbornly refused to recognize the Oil Workers International Union as the representative of his employees. His papers contain 1937-1940 correspondence, clippings, and other documents on the strike and workers attempts to organize and collective bargain. Among the correspondents is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Paul Stewart likewise condemned sit-down strikes, and in his collection is a scrapbook (box 5) containing clippings on his attempts as state senator to outlaw the practice in 1939.
Elmer Thomas was more favorable toward the labor movement, and his papers reflect his interest in it. Several folders labeled Labor in the Resource Files contain such documents as the Monthly Labor Review from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pamphlets on unemployment compensation, and reports and statistics of the federal government and other organizations. In box 21 of the Subject Files is a folder under Oil on the strike at the Phillips Petroleum Company in 1936. The Legislative Files, particularly in boxes 19, 32, 40, and 41, have constituent correspondence on such labor legislation as the 30-hour work week bill, Wagner Labor bill, wage-hour bill, fair labor standards bill, and National Labor Relations Act amendment. Also here are a small number of letters on the 1939 strike at the Mid-Continental Oil Company.
|It is my contention that we could issue a
reasonable amount of new currency against the surplus gold and silver and,
while the issuance of such money would make money plentiful and, thereby,
cheaper, such a policy would not constitute inflation in the true sense
of the term. Inflation is the issuance of an unjustified amount of irredeemable
Elmer Thomas to Oscar D. Green, May 17, 1935. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Subject Files, box 17, folder 35)
Monetary policy and economic planning are topics that exist in many of the CAC collections from this time period. Senator Robert L. Owen co-authored the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which established the Federal Reserve system, and although by the 1930s he was a private citizen again, he maintained his interest. In box 1, folder 6, of his papers is legislation on federal reserve policy for the 1930s and 1940s, as well as memos, comments, and an article written by him in 1939. The papers of Thomas P. Gore contain correspondence (box 1, folders 20-23) between the senator and Chase National Banks Benjamin M. Anderson and other officers on economic planning. There are additional materials on the gold standard (box 5, folder 35) and money (box 8, folder 50). In folder 5 of the William B. Pine Collection are an article and letter from a citizen on the Federal Reserves role in the Depression. Folder 11 contains a 1930 speech in which Pine blames the Depression on the central banking system.
Like many liberals during the early years of the Great Depression, Senator Elmer Thomas carried the baggage of Populism, including an affinity for the silver standard and support for the American farmer. In Forty Years a Legislator, (pp. 197-293) he indicates that during the economic crisis he advocated stabilization of purchasing power by controlling the expansion and contraction of the currency. At the time he was called the leader of congressional inflationists, and he spent much legislative energy on bills designed to increase agriculture and commodity prices. He supported the silver standard, recommended removal of the dollar from the gold standard, and, in the late 1930s, chaired the Senates Special Committee on Silver Policy. His Subject Files contain substantial material on monetary policy (boxes 15-19), and they include correspondence with Robert L. Owen, banking officials, Father Charles Coughlin, Federal Reserve Governor Eugene Black, Bernard Baruch, and others. Additional materials include bills, hearing transcripts, reports, clippings, and publications. Several folders are labeled National Bank Matters, and box 18 contains materials on Thomass Monetary Authority Act of 1937 (S. 1990) to stabilize agriculture and commodity prices through regulation of the dollars value. Similar materials can be found in boxes 28 and 29 of the Legislative Files. Also scattered throughout this series under Banking and Currency are folders on inflation legislation, bimetallism, gold, and purchasing power. Box 18, folders 5-7, cover a 1935 National Monetary Conference that Thomas chaired and in which Robert L. Owen participated. Box 27, folders 71-78B, cover the senators involvement with the Silver Committee. In the Resource Files under Money and Money/Silver are over a cubic foot of publications, government reports, and other materials, including a transcript of a radio address by Father Coughlin (box 11, folder 7). The Legislative Files (box 10, folder 57, and box 18, folder 5), the Subject Files (box 4, folders 45-46), and the Project Files (box 3, folders 5-8) contain documents on The Committee for the Nation to Rebuild Prices and Purchasing Power. The terms money and monetary policyoccur too frequently in the inventories to include every mention.
|Huey Long was born in the dark side of the
moon. . . . And it also holds that a man born in the dark of the moon in
August is iconoclastic. That is, he wants to tear down instead of building
up. He doesnt have any respect for authority. He is invariably egotistical.
P. L. Gassaway, radio address, April 7, 1935. (P. L. Gassaway Collection, box 4, folder 17)
In the Thomas P. Gore Collection (box 1, folder 111) are publications on the communization of the U. S. and about the presidents supposed Jewish ancestry. Scattered throughout the collection is correspondence with national politicians. In box 5 are materials on the 1932 election. In box 8 are political speeches Gore made, including one titled Is the Constitution a Mere Souvenir? and one on the National Recovery Administration (NRA).
Materials are scattered throughout the Wilburn Cartwright Collection. Box 1 contains the congressmans constituent newsletters on activities in Washington and in Congress. Three folders in box 12 hold documents on House speaker and majority leader elections during the late 1930s and in 1940, and these include correspondence with Joseph Byrnes, William Bankhead, Sam Rayburn, and other members of Congress. In boxes 15, 16, and 19 are also letters between Cartwright and Byrnes, Jim Farley, other politicians, and other important persons. There are also clippings on politicians of national prominence in box 53 and in the outsized materials.
Documents on national politics in the Elmer Thomas Collection exist in the Legislative and Subject files. They cover a variety of topics. Of particular interest are the 10 folders labeled Supreme Court Packing in box 36 of the former series and the Huey Long correspondence and clippings in box 14, folder 40, of the latter.
Additional documents can be found in several small collections. The P. L. Gassaway papers (box 2) contain correspondence and clippings on various politicians of the 1930s. Of note are the letters about Huey Long. In box 4 is a copy of Gassaways colorful April 7, 1935, radio address denouncing the Louisiana senator. The James McClintic papers contain political speeches made by the congressman, as well as copies of his newsletters on national politics and the Oklahoma congressional delegation in Washington. The Milton Garber Collection contains speeches and clippings on the Republican Party, correspondence and pamphlets on government expenditures (1932-1933), and a 1940 pamphlet by newspaper publisher James M. Thomson and denouncing Huey Long and Franklin D. Roosevelt as dictators. The Thomas McKeown Collection holds speeches and clippings on campaigns and politics and documents the congressmans involvement in the LaGuardia-McKeown and farm mortgage refinancing bills. Correspondence with James Roosevelt is in the Jack Nichols papers. The Wesley E. Disney scrapbooks contain clippings on Henry T. Rainey.
Central to the politics of the 1930s and early 1940s was the presence of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It might be expected that the files of contemporary members of Congress would contain substantial and significant correspondence with the president, but this is not the case. Some collections, such as that of Elmer Thomas, contain letters to and a few letters from Roosevelt, but these amount to invitations or official statements on legislation or policy. More substantial are the materials about the chief executive and his wife Eleanor. Constituents wrote their congressmen about the two and many members cut clippings on them. These exist scattered throughout many collections, particularly those of Elmer Thomas, Wilburn Cartwright, and Wesley E. Disney. The president and his bid for a third term are among the topics contained in a folder labeled Roosevelt in Lyle Borens Subject Correspondence.
|We have been waiting until your return from
Congress in order that we may have you as our guest at our Fourth District
Postmasters meeting. . . . This will be a Postmasters meeting on the outside,
and what ever you want to make it on the inside. I believe it will eliminate
any hollering of politics.
Mel Clow to Lyle Boren, August 21, 1937. (Lyle Boren Collection, Subject Correspondence, Box 77, Clow, Mel folder)
Claude Weaver was Murrays secretary and legal adviser during the gubernatorial term. His papers contain campaign materials from 1930 and 1932, correspondence with the governor, and copies of executive orders. There are also materials from Weavers own 1932, 1934, and 1935 races for public office.
The Lyle Boren Collection contains numerous materials on Oklahoma and local politics. In the Subject Correspondence series are letters from Murphy Barker, A. J. Brock, Mel Clow, Cyclone Covey, Bruce Carter, and Ed Gill, all associates who kept tabs on government appointments and federal projects in the state. Scrapbooks in the collection contain clippings on Boren, his 1940 campaign against Mabel Bassett, state politics, and President Roosevelts 1938 visit to the state.
The Wilburn Cartwright papers also hold numerous materials on state and local politicians. Correspondence with such people exists in boxes 15, 16, and 19, and clippings on them are in box 53 and the outsized materials. The Campaign Files in boxes 23-24 contain similar documents, as well as political advertising for Cartwright and a large number of other people running for national, state, and local office.
The Special Correspondence Series of Elmer Thomas holds the senators letters to and from those active in state and local politics. Correspondents include Ernest Chamberlain, Charles Dierker, Walter Ferguson, H. G. House, John P. Logan, Tom Phillips, and John A. Simpson. There is an especially large amount of correspondence between Thomas and Oklahoma Democratic party chair Scott Ferris. Folders labeled Oklahoma Matters in box 21 of the Subject Files contain additional correspondence. In box 29 of the same series are files on the Veterans of Industry in America (VIA) and correspondence with Ira Finley and other VIA leaders on such topics as employment, old-age pensions, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Campaign Files contain additional information.
Other materials can be found in several small collections. Scattered throughout the Thomas. P. Gore and P. L. Gassaway collections is correspondence with Oklahoma politicians and about various election campaigns of the 1930s. The James McClintic Collection contains materials from the 1932 and 1934 campaigns and from his position as Oklahoma Governor E. W. Marlands patronage assistant. The Jed Johnson papers have campaign flyers and posters, as well as clippings on state politics. In the Jack Nichols Collection is 1936 correspondence between the congressman and Jim Farley on the political situation in Oklahoma (box 1, folder 16). In the scrapbooks of the Paul Stewart Collection are clippings on a 1937 state highway commission controversy, the 1940 election, political appointments, and the 1940-1941 state school funding and textbook investigation. The Wesley E. Disney Collection holds clippings on campaigns, elections, the Will Rogers Memorial, and Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma politics. In the Lyle Boren Subject Correspondence, under WPA, are letters from several members of the VIA on a proposed stagger system for local projects of the federal agency.
|There were 83 car loads of Beer unloaded
in Tulsa yesterday morning and the State collected $132,840.00 in license
fees the first day and the crowd of applicants was so great it will take
the Tax Commission several days to work out the crowd. They were as thick
as the job seekers in your office on March 4th.
letter to Elmer Thomas, July 13, 1933. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Legislative Files, box 15, folder 22)
Wilburn Cartwright voted against repeal, and his papers contain correspondence and clippings on the topic (see box 8, folders 19-20, and box 53, folder 16) from the early 1930s. The Wesley E. Disney scrapbooks have clippings on the liquor ban and 3.2 beer for 1932-1938. Three series in the Elmer Thomas Collection contain pertinent materials. In box 13 of the Resource Files are four folders of reports, essays, pamphlets, and clippings on Prohibition for the period 1927-1930. Constituent correspondence exists in the Subject Files (box 23) including letters dated 1931 and discussing problems with enforcement of Prohibition. Scattered in the Legislative Files are clippings and correspondence on legislation or enforcement of legislation, 1930-1935.
|The clothing that has been made in the [WPA]
sewing rooms of Marshall County [Oklahoma] has made it possible for many
little children to keep warm and have suitable clothing to wear to school.
The women in this county have used the money that they have made to buy
necessities of life, while many of the men have used their money for other
purposes. The women seem to appreciate what the government is doing for
them more than the men do.
Raymond Gary to Elmer Thomas, January 6, 1937. (Elmer Thomas Collection, Subject Files, box 31, folder 66)
Several scrapbooks in the Wesley E. Disney Collection contain clippings on post offices and government buildings constructed in such northeastern Oklahoma towns as Nowata, Pryor, Vinita, Claremore, and Skiatook. A number of folders exist in the Wilburn Cartwright papers (box 15) on the financial status of various Oklahoma projects. The Elmer Thomas Project Files holds folders titled Armories, Federal Buildings Oklahoma Projects Oklahoma Public Works Projects, Projects, Public Works Administration, and Works Progress Administration, as well as with the names of particular cities. Information also exists in the Subject Files under Public Works Administration, Works Progress Administration, Federal Buildings, Post Offices, and Oklahoma Matters. In the WPA folders are reports on Oklahoma economic conditions for the last few years of the Depression. Much correspondence in these two series concerns appropriation of funds, securing of projects, problems with contractors, and administration of the agencies. There is also material on wages and employment. Soil conservation, water projects, and building ventures are well represented, but there is information on other activities, such as the sewing projects.
Besides the manuscript collections, the Cartwright and Thomas photograph collections contain images depicting New Deal projects. The former contains black-and-white-prints of facilities, primarily in southeastern Oklahoma, and the latter has similar items for the entire state. Depicted are fish hatcheries, airports, roads, bridges, shelterbelts, schools, post offices, libraries, water mains and sewers, and armories. Most photographs were taken upon completion, although a few show actual construction. In Thomas are pictures of vocational training activities for men and projects for women and African-Americans.
One of the myriad works projects of the New Deal was construction or improvement of the nations highways, roads, and bridges. Wilburn Cartwright chaired the House Roads Committee, placing him in a unique position, and he co-authored such legislation as the Hayden-Cartwright Act providing emergency relief highway funds. The Roads Committee files in his papers comprise more than two cubic feet of correspondence, clippings, and legislation on federal highway appropriations and road and bridge conditions in Oklahoma and other states. These files also contain materials on Oklahomas dispute with Texas over the Red River Bridge, Cartwrights spat with Oklahoma Governor Leon Red Phillips over federal funding of state road construction, and the congressmans advocacy of a national superhighway system. A smattering of images in the Cartwright photograph collection depict road conditions during the period. A few pertinent materials also exist in the Elmer Thomas Legislative Files under Post Office and Post Roads Committee.
|At a price the farmer can afford REA slogan.|
The Elmer Thomas Collection is the primary one at the Carl Albert Center with materials on rural electrification, although the Jed Johnson Collection contains a speech on the topic and the Wesley E. Disney Collection contains some newspaper clippings. In the Thomas Resource Files under Electrical Power are three folders of pamphlets on public ownership of power; they also include a 1935 speech by Father Charles Coughlin and a 1941 Federal Power Commission study on electric bills in Oklahoma. The Subject Files include folders titled Rural Electrification and LoansREA that hold REA pamphlets and press releases, as well as correspondence on loans, projects, and utility companies. Under Federal Power Commission is an electric rate survey. The Project Files, primarily in box 15 under Rural Electrification Administration but elsewhere too, have correspondence on particular Oklahoma county projects, especially problems experienced on them. In Legislative Files under Agriculture and Forestry and Appropriations is constituent correspondence dated 1936-1941 and requesting geographic expansion of the program and inclusion of telephone service. Thomas, in his Forty Years a Legislator, (pp. 118-121) linked the generation of power with the construction of new dams (see also WATER PROJECTS).
|As briefly as I can state in reply to your
request relative to the Townsend Old Age Pension plan, [I] will say that
this plan is indeed a mirage and a dream that has been hatched out of a
nest of a group of designing persons calculated to appeal to the passions
of the aged, illiterate, uninformed, and unfortunate persons of the United
P. L. Gassaway to Morris A. Bealle, editor of Plain Talk, January 9, 1936. (P. L. Gassaway Collection, box 2, folder 9)
The Lyle Boren papers, in the Information Files, include such items as Oklahoma Public Welfare Commission correspondence on compliance, a 1938 Wigwam Press pamphlet on a national pension plan, and a 1937 Social Security Board summary of progress. In addition, Legislative Files contain the text of the 1935 Social Security Act and constituent correspondence on various bills.
Both the Elmer Thomas Legislative and Subject files contain folders on this topic for the years 1932-1940. In the former, documents are filed primarily under Finance Committee, in the latter Old-Age Pensions and Social Security. Most materials here are bills and constituent correspondence. Also included are flyers from various organizations, as well as brochures and press releases from the Social Security Board. Subtopics include the Social Security Act and related legislation, expansion of the program, location of Social Security offices in Oklahoma, and compliance of Oklahoma with the national system.
A few other collections contain material on social security or old-age pensions. The Wilburn Cartwright Collection holds six folders in box 8 with clippings, legislation, and correspondence for the period 1940-1941. Ira Finley, leader of the Veterans of Industry of America (VIA), is one of the more prominent correspondents. Also pertinent are scrapbooks in the Wesley E. Disney Collection and speeches in the Thomas P. Gore Collection.
One widely discussed plan was that of Dr. Francis E. Townsend, who advocated $200 per month for all citizens aged 60 or more. The appeal was long-term and continued for years after the Great Depression ended. Many collections already mentioned contain a few items on this proposal. In the Legislative Files of the Boren papers is the congressmans own 1937 bill for a $30 per month pension to 60-year-old and older Americans. Also here is a folder titled Townsend Plan that contains correspondence with Oklahoma Townsend clubs. Clippings exist in the Disney and Gore papers, and a 1938 pamphlet in the William H. Murray Collection (box 4, folder 38). The Thomas Legislative Files for 1935-1936, under Finance Committee, contain correspondence with Old Age Revolving Pensions, Ltd., the official name of Townsends group. The files for 1937-1938 hold a few flyers from the organization. Also here is a Thomas-sponsored bill that the retired California physician supposedly supported. Congressman P. L. Gassaway vociferously opposed the Townsend Plan, and his correspondence lays out his views (correspondents include Ira Finley).
|As to the political side of it, I am not
the kind of candidate who is for the dam below the dam, against the dam
above the dam, and who doesnt give a damn away from the dam. I am for
Wilburn Cartwright to Herbert Pate, May 13, 1938. (Wilburn Cartwright Collection, box 14, folder 1)
Other collections contain pertinent materials. Clippings in the Wesley E. Disney scrapbooks trace the troubled course of the project. Correspondence and other documents exist in the Elmer Thomas papers, primarily in the Project Files under Denison Dam, Oklahoma Projects, and Public WorksDenison Dam, as well as scattered throughout the Legislative Files. These date from 1937 to 1941.
The Cartwright and Thomas photograph collections both contain images of dams and reservoirs constructed during the 1930s and early 1940s. The former holds black-and-white prints of completed projects in southeastern Oklahoma. The latter has photographs of Oklahomas Lake Lawtonka, Lake Elmer Thomas, and Grand River dams; the Altus-Lugert Irrigation system; and such western projects as the Grand Coulee Dam, the California Central Valley Project, and the various Colorado River projects.
|For myself, for my dad and my mother, whose
hair is silvery in the service of building the state of Oklahoma, I say
to you, and to every honest, square-minded reader in America, that the
painting Steinbeck made in his book is a lie, a damnable, lie, a black,
infernal creation of a twisted, distorted mind.
Lyle Boren, address in the U. S. House, January 24, 1940. (Lyle Boren Collection, box 78, Grapes of Wrath folder)
For more information on the archival holdings, please contact the Carl Albert Center.