Dr. Duncan P. McKinnon Assistant Professor, University of Central Arkansas Director, Jamie C. Brandon Center for Archaeological Research Artifact of the Month – August 2020
The artifact of the month for August is a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) token, known also as a CCC exchange token (Akin et al. 2016:102–103; Wahlberg 1978). When the Federal New Deal program was established in 1933, the CCC was tasked with the creation of various work camps located on lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. Unemployed and unmarried young men from relief families were enrolled to live in the camps and provide unskilled manual labor. Labor efforts were related to conservation and management of natural resources in forestry, soil conservation, erosion, irrigation, fire brigade, the construction of recreational facilities, bridges, hiking trails, and other infrastructure and public works projects (Maher 2009).
In Arkansas, the CCC established over 60 camps between 1933 and 1942 that were situated throughout the state to support Federal Game Refuges, National Forests, National Parks, and State Parks, as well as those tasked with assisting local rural agencies (McCarty 1977; Smith 1991). Some of the better-known state parks, camping facilities, and hiking trails are a product of the labor provided by these young enrollees and are still in regular use today.
CCC camps were often rural and located some distance from cities or commercial centers. As such, camp stores or exchanges, much like commissaries on military bases, were set up so enrollees could more easily purchase basic necessities and inexpensive luxury items. Using a small portion of their monthly pay (most was mandatory allotment sent back to their families), enrollees could buy exchange tokens or paper coupons for use at the camp store.
This exchange token was recovered from Camp Halsey (3FA313) during the 2019 UCA field school excavations. Camp Halsey is located about 10 miles east of Greenbrier, Arkansas in what was the rural community of Centerville. The token was found, rather serendipitously, buried in debris that had accumulated in the hearth of a chimney base. The chimney base is associated with the camp Officer’s Quarters, which was a rigid frame wood structure with five rooms and a capacity of four individuals. The building is no longer standing.
The token is aluminum and measures 2.5cm across. On the front side is the image of a conifer tree with “CCC” running down the middle and “U.S.” under the tree. Around the edge it reads, “CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS.” While loblolly pine is the state tree of Arkansas (established in 1939) the tree image is common on CCC tokens at camps across the country. It refers to the widely used moniker, “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” and the prolific CCC tree-planting program (Alexander 2018; Cohen 1993).
The reverse side is marked, “GOOD FOR 10¢ IN TRADE” for those enrollees in “CO. 1706” in “GREENBRIER, ARKANSAS.” Calculating for inflation, 10¢ in 1934 is equivalent purchasing power to about $2 in 2020.
Company 1706 first occupied Camp Victor (3PP192) on June 16, 1933 on US Forest Service land near Dover, Arkansas in northern Pope County. The Company was transferred to the newly established Camp Halsey on October 1, 1934. Company 1706 occupied Camp Halsey until November 1, 1935 when the Company was disbanded and enrollees were redistributed to other camps.
If this token was found in the spot in which it was originally discarded, it is tempting to visualize a departing enrollee tossing the token into the chimney hearth, to be discovered in its resting place by eager archeology students almost 85 years later.
Akin, Marjorie H., James C. Bard, and Kevin Akin
2016 Numismatic Archaeology of North America: A Field Guide. Routledge, Oxfordshire.
2018 The New Deal’s Forest Army: How the Civilian Conservation Corps Worked. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.
1978 C. C. C. Tokens. Missouri Journal of Numismatics 3(1):3–4, 8–10.
Artifact of the Month Series
A first principle of archeology is that the significance of artifacts depends upon documented information about the context of their discovery. At what site was the artifact found? Can we figure out the age of the artifact? Where was it found in relation to site features (houses, trash deposits, activity areas, etc.) and the distribution of other artifacts? Only with knowledge of those facts can we assess further information about the manufacture and use of artifacts, and their role in other spheres of activity such as social organization, trade and exchange, and religious practice.
In this series, we feature select artifacts that are extraordinary both for the context of their discovery and for their unique qualities that contribute exceptionally important information about Arkansas culture and history. New artifacts will be added monthly. Find the list of artifacts here.