Building New Deal Liberalism
The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933--1956
This book provides the first historical study of New Deal public works programs and their role in transforming the American economy, landscape, and political system during the twentieth century. Reconstructing the story of how reformers used public authority to reshape the nation, Jason Scott Smith argues that the New Deal produced a revolution in state-sponsored economic development. The scale and scope of this dramatic federal investment in infrastructure laid crucial foundations – sometimes literally – for postwar growth, presaging the national highways and the military-industrial complex. This impressive and exhaustively researched analysis underscores the importance of the New Deal in comprehending political and economic change in modern America by placing political economy at the center of the “new political history.” Drawing on a remarkable range of sources, Smith provides a groundbreaking reinterpretation of the relationship between the New Deal's welfare state and American liberalism.
Jason Scott Smith is an assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico. He previously held a Mellon Fellowship in American Studies at Cornell University, where he was a visiting assistant professor in the department of history and the department of government. In 2001–02 he was the Harvard-Newcomen Fellow at the Harvard Business School, where he taught courses on the history of capitalism. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including the Journal of Social History, Pacific Historical Review, Reviews in American History, and the Journal of Interdisciplinary History.
Building New Deal Liberalism
The Political Economy of Public Works,
JASON SCOTT SMITH
University of New Mexico
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo
Cambridge University Press
40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211, USA
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521828055
© Jason Scott Smith 2006
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2006
Printed in the United States of America
A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Smith, Jason Scott, 1970–
Building New Deal liberalism : the political economy of public works, 1933–1956 /
Jason Scott Smith.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-521-82805-8 (hardback)
1. New Deal, 1933–1939. 2. United States – Economic policy – 1933–1945.
3. United States – Economic conditions – 1918–1945. 4. United States –
Politics and government – 1933–1945. 5. Liberalism – United States –
History – 20th century. I. Title.
338.973′009′043 – dc22 2005006335
ISBN-13 978-0-521-82805-5 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-82805-8 hardback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication
and does not guarantee that any content on such
Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
|List of Illustrations||page vi|
|Common Abbreviations in Text and Notes||xiii|
|1||Reevaluating the New Deal State and the Public Works Revolution||1|
|2||Economic Development and Unemployment during the Early New Deal||21|
|3||Making a New Deal State: Patronage and the Public Works Administration||54|
|4||The Dilemma of New Deal Public Works: People or Projects?||85|
|5||“Boondoggling” and the Welfare State||135|
|6||Party Building and “Pernicious Political Activities”: The Road to the Hatch Act||160|
|7||Public Works and New Deal Liberalism in Reorganization and War||190|
|8||Public Works and the Postwar World||232|
|9||Epilogue: Public Works and the Building of New Deal Liberalism||258|
|1||Triborough Bridge, New York City||page 123|
|2||Water Purification Works, Cincinnati, Ohio||123|
|3||Alameda County Courthouse, Oakland, California||124|
|4||Reservoir and Water System, Los Angeles, California||124|
|5||O’Shaughnessy Dam, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, California||125|
|6||Port of Oakland, California||125|
|7||State Capitol, Salem, Oregon||126|
|8||Coast Bridge, Oregon||126|
|9||Pierre S. DuPont High School, Wilmington, Delaware||127|
|10||Surgical Hospital Building, Hopemont, West Virginia||127|
|11||Overseas Highway, Florida||128|
|12||Cold Storage Plant, Mobile, Alabama||128|
|13||Administration Building, Municipal Airport, Fort Worth, Texas||129|
|14||Davidson County Courthouse, Nashville, Tennessee||129|
|15||Armory, Minneapolis, Minnesota||130|
|16||Allegheny County Bridge, Pennsylvania||130|
|17||Central Fire Station, Louisville, Kentucky||131|
|18||Surgical Operating and Ward Building, Boston, Massachusetts||131|
|19||Public Library, De Pere, Wisconsin||132|
|20||Grade School, Parco, Wyoming||132|
|21||Williamsburg Houses, Brooklyn, New York||133|
|23||Federal Trade Commission Building, Washington, D.C.||134|
|24||U.S. Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, Kentucky||134|
I owe a great debt to many people and institutions for their support of this project. This book began as a dissertation in the history department at the University of California, Berkeley, and took shape over several years while I held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University and at Cornell University. At Berkeley, I owe more than I can say to Robin Einhorn, not only for her amazingly fast and perceptive readings of chapters, but more importantly for teaching me what history is all about. I cannot imagine a better adviser, nor a more steadfast friend and colleague as I navigated the academic job market. I am grateful to David Hollinger and to Kiren Chaudhry for their encouragement and guidance, both as they served on my committee and afterward. Jim Kettner always had time to offer his quiet blend of kindness and insight, and I am saddened he did not live to see this book completed. Paul Sabin, Phil Soffer, and Anne Woo-Sam provided counsel at an early stage, and Guian McKee, Monica Rico, Chad Bryant, J. P. Daughton, Brad Hunt, and Kaarin Michaelsen supplied advice on a number of the chapters. Randy Starn and Tina Gillis at the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities provided a fellowship and support while I began writing. Hee Ko, Mabel Lee, Chaela Pastore, Michelle Tusan, Diana Selig, Susanna Barrows, Yuri Slezkine, Dan Rolde, Robert Avila, Paul Romano, Nils Gilman, David Milnes, Judy Rummelsburg, Kevin Chen, Anthony De Ritis, and Stephen Cole helped in multiple ways.
At Harvard, I was fortunate to hold the Harvard-Newcomen fellowship at the Harvard Business School. This was a wonderful experience, in great part because it meant that I got to know Thomas McCraw. Tom's intelligence and encouragement have meant a great deal to me, and our conversations about the New Deal and capitalism helped to sharpen my arguments. At HBS, Walter Friedman read the entire manuscript with care and Yankee ingenuity. David Moss, Jeff Fear, Geoffrey Jones, Nancy Koehn, Richard Tedlow, Dan Wadhwani, and Stephen Mihm provided helpful insights and friendship. Margaret Willard edited the manuscript and saved me from many errors and infelicities. Across the Charles River, Sven Beckert proved a generous and thoughtful colleague, and the seminar on political economy that he directed at the Charles Warren Center was continually stimulating. Alice O'Connor generously commented on an early conference paper I presented at the Policy History Conference in St. Louis, and has been a friendly source of wisdom and insight, both during her time as a Fellow at the Warren Center and subsequently. I also learned much from presentations made by Paul Samuelson, at the Business History Seminar at HBS, and by John Kenneth Galbraith, in a forum arranged by Richard Parker at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Regina Abrami, Gunnar Trumbull, Meg Jacobs, Chris Capozzola, Anthony De Ritis, Veronica Ryback, and Jonathan Zatlin helped to make Cambridge and Boston feel like home.
Many comments and suggestions from audience members at various conference presentations have proven exceedingly helpful, and I apologize for not being able to acknowledge by name all of the people who asked such interesting questions. I am grateful to Catherine Collomp and Mark Meigs for an invitation to present my work at the Université de Paris VII, at the conference “Beyond the New Deal.” Conversations there with Lizabeth Cohen, Allida Black, Marianne Debouzy, Cathy Turner, and Bob Cherny helped a great deal. At the International Planning History Society conference in Barcelona, I learned much from my co-panelists Kelly Quinn and Brad Hunt, and I thank Bob Breugmann for his incisive critiques of our papers. I want to thank Richard John for the opportunity to give a paper at the Technology, Politics, and Culture seminar at the Newberry Library in Chicago, as well as for his generous assistance on a number of matters. Brian Balogh thoughtfully located my work in the growing “new political history” in his comments on a paper I presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, and conversations with a number of people at the Policy History Conference, including Bill Novak, Ajay Mehrotra, Gail Radford, Margaret O'Mara, and Michael Bernstein, helped me clarify what is at stake in examining the New Deal through the lens of historical political economy.
At Cornell, I am grateful to Larry Moore and Elizabeth Sanders for selecting me as a Mellon Fellow, and for the opportunity to serve as an assistant professor in the department of history and department of government. I have thus been able to complete this book while living in a remarkable community of scholars, and I have learned much from conversations with Bernadette Meyler, Sandra Greene, Val Bunce, Richard Bensel, Richard Polenberg, Fredrik Logevall, Ed Baptist, Derek Chang, Holly Case, Aaron Sachs, and, in Cornell's Mellon Humanities Seminar, Robert Frank, Harry Shaw, Ron Kline, and Michele Moody-Adams.
At the University of New Mexico, I thank Jane Slaughter, Virginia Scharff, Tim Moy, Andrew Sandoval-Strausz, Cathleen Cahill, and the members of the history department for their engagement with my work and for providing such a warm welcome to the Southwest. Lew Bateman and everyone at Cambridge University Press have been a tremendous help in the publication process, and I greatly appreciate their assistance. Mark Leff and Ed Berkowitz provided detailed advice as readers for Cambridge, and they subsequently took me out for a memorable lunch. I hope I can somehow repay their multiple investments in this project.
This book simply would not exist without the work done by many talented archivists and library staff, and I thank them all for helping me locate and gain access to so many obscure sources. The National Archives in Washington, D.C., and in College Park, Maryland, the manuscript division of the Library of Congress, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York, are terrific places to work. The helpful staff of these archives, and of the vast library systems of Berkeley, Harvard, and Cornell, was indispensable to me. I am also grateful to the University of California Press and the Pacific Historical Review for permission to draw upon aspects of my article, “New Deal Public Works at War: The WPA and Japanese American Internment.” The University of California, Berkeley, department of history, the Mellon Foundation, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Newcomen Society, and Harvard Business School's Division of Research provided financial support for this project. While all of these people and institutions have helped me, the ultimate responsibility for this book is mine.
Finally, I owe a great debt to my parents, Daniel and Yvonne. I thank them not only for their love and support, but also for giving me such a wonderful sister, Sarah.
Common Abbreviations in Text and Notes
|ACA||Advisory Committee on Allotments|
|AALL||American Association for Labor Legislation|
|AFL||American Federation of Labor|
|AGC||Associated General Contractors of America|
|CCC||Civilian Conservation Corps|
|CWA||Civil Works Administration|
|ERCA||Emergency Relief and Construction Act|
|FERA||Federal Emergency Relief Administration|
|FWA||Federal Works Agency|
|GSA||General Services Administration|
|NIRA||National Industrial Recovery Act|
|NPB||National Planning Board|
|NRA||National Recovery Administration|
|NRPB||National Resources Planning Board|
|PECE||President’s Emergency Committee for Employment|
|PWA||Public Works Administration|
|PWR||Public Works Reserve|
|RFC||Reconstruction Finance Corporation|
|TVA||Tennessee Valley Authority|
|WRA||War Relocation Authority|
|WCCA||Wartime Civilian Control Administration|
|WPA||Works Progress Administration (after 1939, Work Projects Administration)|
|FDRL||Franklin D. Roosevelt Library|
|OF Official File|
|PPF President's Personal File|
|PSF President's Secretary’s File|
|JERS||Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records|
|LC||Manuscript Division, Library of Congress|
|NA||National Archives, Washington, D.C.|
|NA–College Park||National Archives, College Park, Maryland|
Building New Deal Liberalism
The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933--1956