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Leaving Depression Road!
 

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As the Great Depression deepened across the United States in 1931, thousands of unemployed men and their families converged on California, seeking jobs and a favorable climate. That year, the state established several labor camps to provide relief employment for these men. The relief laborers worked on highway construction, maintenance, and beautification, as well as various forestry-related tasks. In return, the state provided the men with food, clothing, shelter, a weekly ration of tobacco and matches, and medical care.

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California Highways and Public Works, Journal of the Department of Public Works, State of California, December 1931.

California Highways and Public Works, Journal of the Department of Public Works, State of California, December 1931.

Ephemera Collection, California State Archives


Building a roadside fountain, San Bernardino County, 1932, and completed fountain, Humboldt County, 1931. Many of the highway projects assigned to relief employment workers involved beautification of California’s roadsides, such as building water fountains at rest stops.  These locations provided attractive places for travelers to take a break from driving.

Building a roadside fountain, San Bernardino County, 1932, and completed fountain, Humboldt County, 1931. Many of the highway projects assigned to relief employment workers involved beautification of California’s roadsides, such as building water fountains at rest stops.  These locations provided attractive places for travelers to take a break from driving.

Building a roadside fountain, San Bernardino County, 1932, and completed fountain, Humboldt County, 1931.

Many of the highway projects assigned to relief employment workers involved beautification of California’s roadsides, such as building water fountains at rest stops. These locations provided attractive places for travelers to take a break from driving.

Photographs, Relief Employment, Records of the Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives.


Slope protection plantings, circa 1931. This photograph depicts relief employment workers planting ice plants in the berm along the highway between Los Alamos and Zuca, in Santa Barbara County.  Such plantings reduced erosion and extended the life of the roadway.

Slope protection plantings, circa 1931.

This photograph depicts relief employment workers planting ice plants in the berm along the highway between Los Alamos and Zuca, in Santa Barbara County. Such plantings reduced erosion and extended the life of the roadway.

Photographs, Relief Employment, Records of the Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives.


Slope protection in Los Angeles County, circa 1933. Relief employment engaged in other slope protection work along California’s highways, including the installation on steep hillsides of pipe and wire fencing backed with rocks and brush.

Slope protection in Los Angeles County, circa 1933.

Relief employment engaged in other slope protection work along California’s highways, including the installation on steep hillsides of pipe and wire fencing backed with rocks and brush.

Photographs, Relief Employment, Records of the Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives.

Rock gutters, San Bernardino County, circa 1932. The construction of rock gutters helped prevent destructive flooding and erosion along the state’s highways.

Rock gutters, San Bernardino County, circa 1932.

The construction of rock gutters helped prevent destructive flooding and erosion along the state’s highways.

Photographs, Relief Employment, Records of the Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, California State Archives.



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