Other than Union County, show in white, WPA survey or excavation took place throughout New Jersey.

By Bernard K. Means

As the Shovel Ready book inches to completion—it’s off my hands for the weekend, anyhow—I planned to focus this blog entry on New Deal-funded archaeology in Maryland.  Not much has been written about this topic, other than incidental snippets of information here and there.  But, the devastation unleashed on the northeast by Hurricane Sandy this week turned my thoughts to New Jersey and its New Deal archaeology past.  New Jersey was one of two states in the northeast that saw extensive archaeological survey and excavation funded by New Deal programs—the other was Pennsylvania.  The decades preceding the Crash of ’29 saw growing avocational and professional interest in the archaeological record of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  This led to preliminary efforts in both states to document their respective archaeological heritages—especially those related to the traces of American Indians.  Both states were “shovel ready” when New Deal funding became available—and leading archaeologists in the two states aggressively pursued this work relief funding.

New Jersey’s work relief archaeology differed from that conducted in Pennsylvania in a number of important respects.  Although more or less overseen by state archaeologist Donald Cadzow, Pennsylvania’s work relief efforts were run on a local level—often by county governments or historical societies—and drew on a wide range of New Deal programs for funding, including the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Civil Works Administration (CWA), Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the National Youth Administration (NYA), and the Works Progress/Work Projects Administration (WPA).  New Jersey’s work relief archaeology was funded solely by the WPA and had central control via the New Jersey State Museum—and under the direction of Dorothy Cross, one of the most prominent (and rare) female archaeologists in charge of a New Deal archaeology project.  This centralized control ensured that all but one New Jersey county saw some work relief archaeology, as opposed to Pennsylvania where coverage was much more uneven.  Cross also oversaw two major publications resulting from the New Deal investigations of her state.  Pennsylvania’s work relief archaeology was largely confined to short articles in the Pennsylvania Archaeologist—some without attribution or even mention that they presented results of New Deal-funded archaeology.

If you want to learn more about New Jersey’s WPA-funded Indian Site Survey, I recommend the following soon to be published chapter by New Jersey State Museum’s Greg Lattanzi “The First Stimulus Package: The WPA and the New Jersey Indian Site Survey” which is in Shovel Ready: Archaeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America.  One might also be interested in Dorothy Cross’s (1941) Archaeology of New Jersey, Vol. 1 and Archaeology of New Jersey: 2. The Abbott Farm. Both works were published by MacCrellish and Quigley Company, Trenton, New Jersey. Pennsylvania’s New Deal archaeology programs are also considered in Shovel Ready—but more on that in a future blog entry!