Arthurdale Continued
The New Deal build about a hundred communities, mostly all-rural farm colonies like Penderlea Homesteads in North Carolina or industrial subsistence settlements like Austin Homesteads in Minnesota.

The one experiment which caught public attention was the Arthurdale project at Reedsville, West Virginia, in the depressed mountain coal country. The personal pet of Mrs. Roosevelt, who spent thousands of dollars of her own money, Arthurdale proved an expensive failure. "We have been spending money down there like drunken sailors," Ickes lamented. Although the leaders of the movement thought they were giving people a chance to escape the evils of industrial society, the subsistence homesteads which proved most successful were those close to Los Angeles and the Columbia River Valley. Both took on the appearance of any suburban subdivision. As soon as the worst of the Depression was over, people hurried to get back into the "real world of the bustling city streets. The subsistence experiment seemed more a search for an ark of refuge which indicated the despair of the early thirties.

Ironically, at the very time the New Deal was celebrating the calm and quiet of rural life, the country was beginning to learn some desperate facts about living on farms. The novels of Erskine Caldwell—especially Tobacco Road, James Agee's sensitive Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Frazier Hunt's articles in the New York World-Telegram, all opened the nation's eyes to the misery of the sharecropper. The croppers he saw in the South, Hunt wrote, reminded him of Chinese coolies working alongside of the South Manchurian railroad, save that in China he never had seen children in the fields. These people "seemed to belong to another land than the America I knew and loved."


1. Why did Arthurdale receive so much publicity?

2. What did the leaders of the New Deal think was the primary purpose of resettlement?

3. Where were people living before they were asked to resettle in Arthurdale? (a) cities (b) suburbs (c) mountain communities (d) farms.

4. Besides the realities of finding work, why did people turn away from rural life during the Depression?

5. In what ways did Leuchtenberg's account differ from your text?

6. Why do these accounts differ?

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