Great Depression and World War II

The economic catastrophe of the Great Depression left a mark on the Chattahoochee Valley’s industries. Many local mills and businesses struggled to stay open, but numerous New Deal projects offered some jobs for workers. In Harris County, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s love of the pine-covered Appalachian foothills led to the creation of Pine Mountain State Park. Now known as FDR State Park, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, cabins, lakes, and a swimming pool to both preserve and utilize the mountain’s natural beauty.

Roosevelt returned frequently to the area and his Little White House in nearby Warm Springs throughout World War II. As Fort Benning expanded with the addition of the Airborne School for military parachutists, the Columbus homefront kept track of area residents abroad as it welcomed thousands of soliders training nearby.

The 1940s also marked the beginning of the remarkable career of Columbus author Carson McCullers. Starting with the publication of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, McCullers earned critical acclaim and commercial success for her novels, short stories, and plays that explored the vulnerability of the human condition amid racial, sexual and socioeconomic tension in the American South. Though McCullers spent much of her adult life in New York, she frequently returned to Columbus, which served as the thinly veiled setting of much of her work.

  • Civilian Conservation Corps cap
    1930s
    Museum purchase 2000.18.8

    This Civilian Conservation Corps is similar to hats worn by the CCC workers who created Pine Mountain State Park. Click here for more information

  • Sugar ration coupons
    1944
    Gift of Bill and Jackie Johnston 2006.30.5

    The federal government issued ration coupons to conserve the supply of precious food goods, including sugar, during World War II. Click here for more information

  • Alex Mitchell’s Store
    ca. 1930
    silver gelatin print
    Gift of Evans A. Mitchell 1990.9.29

    It is widely believed that Carson McCullers modeled the candy store in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter after Alex Mitchell’s business, a Columbus institution for eighty years. Click here for more information


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