by Bernard K. Means

I’ve written in the past how World War II affected New Deal archaeology in general.  Today, in honor of Memorial Day, I thought I’d briefly talk about the impact of World War II on New Deal archaeology in Pennsylvania, both in the years immediately leading up to World War II and a more long-lasting impact.  As I have documented elsewhere (Means 2013a, b), funds for New Deal archaeology in Pennsylvania–as well as elsewhere in the U.S.–slowed to a trickle in 1940 as the U.S. government turned its attention toward preparing for war, and quickly dried up after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The sudden end of funding in Pennsylvania happened prior to the publication of results from many of the New Deal excavations, other than short pieces in the Pennsylvania Archaeologist.

The official state agency in charge of preservation in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission (today the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) decided to hire Harvard Ph.D. student Francis Cresson to write up the results of the Somerset County WPA excavations of Monongahela villages, excluding those in Mary Butler’s (1939) original formulation of the Monongahela Culture concept (Means 2002, 2008, 2010). The original WPA lead excavator on the sites in Somerset County, Edgar E. Augustine, was considered not up to the task of completing the report, although he did help with preparation of maps and analyses of artifacts. Cresson completed a draft of the manuscript on the Somerset County WPA excavations by 1942, but was drafted to fight in World War II, and never finalized his report–in fact, he did not return to archaeology after the war. Cresson was contacted in the 1960s in an effort to complete the report, but he respectfully declined (Means 2008, 2010). This important manuscript remains unfinished to this day.

Map of the Gower site. Prepared by Edgar E. Augustine.

Map of the Gower site. Prepared by Edgar E. Augustine.

All but one of the sites excavated by the Somerset County WPA project discussed in Cresson’s manuscript saw publication in the Pennsylvania Archaeologist in a series of articles by Augustine (1938a,b,c,d, 1940). The exception is the Gower site, and I plan to complete an article on that site–drawing on Cresson’s manuscript and Augustine’s unpublished notes–this summer for publication in Pennsylvania Archaeologist.

References cited:
Augustine, Edgar
1938a Recent Discoveries in Somerset County. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 8 (1):6-12.

1938b Indian Fortifications in Somerset County. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 8 (2):41-45.

1938c Somerset County Excavations: The Powell Sites. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 8 (3):60-63, 71.

1938d Important Research on Peck and Martz Rock Shelter Site in Somerset County. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 8 (4):83-88.

1940 Fort Hill. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 10 (3):51-58.

Butler, Mary
1939 Three Archaeological Sites in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Historical Commission Bulletin 753. Pennsylvania Historical Commission, Harrisburg.

Means, Bernard K.
2002 Revisiting Mary Butler’s “Three Archaeological Sites in Somerset County, Pennsylvania” for Continuing Insights into Depression-era Archaeology in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Late Prehistoric Monongahela Social Organization. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 72 (2): 8-46.

2008 Resurrecting a Forgotten Monongahela Tradition Village, the Phillips (36Fa22) Site. Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 24:1-12.

2010 Two Archaeological Sites in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 80 (1):1-16.

2013a “Alphabet Soup” and American Archaeology. In Shovel Ready: Archaeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America, edited by Bernard K. Means, pp. 1-18. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

2013b Archaeologist #.00000000000000000: Edgar E. Augustine and New Deal Excavations in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In Shovel Ready: Archaeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America, edited by Bernard K. Means, pp. 48-64. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

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