This section covers insignia, individual field gear, and other items commonly carried on the person. Most objects covered are personal purchase items or company equipment, not part of the standard issue uniform.
Until 1939 CCC uniforms were issued plain, without distinguishing patches or pins. There was neither a standard CCC logo nor any requirement that enrollees wear rank devices such as chevrons.
What the government did not supply, private enterprise stepped in to provide. Commercial vendors rushed CCC logos, pins, and rank and specialty patches to market. These insignia were sold directly to the enrollees. Vendors advertised in the (unofficial) national CCC newspaper Happy Days, mailed catalogs to camps, and engaged individual enrollees as sales agents working on commission.
The resulting welter of patches, rank stripes, and pins provides a wonderful playground for the collector. However, it should be underscored that these insignia were personal purchase items, and images of patches and pins on uniforms of actual enrollees are very uncommon. For the historical interpreter seeking to represent an average CCC enrollee, a plain unadorned uniform is overwhelmingly the correct choice.
Cover and two pages of a typical catalog from a CCC insignia and souvenir vendor, in this case Proctors Products of New Haven, CT. The legal boilerplate on the front cover is clearly carried over from catalogs for military insignia. Source: James F. Justin Civilian Conservation Corps Museum.
Collar disc on an Enrollee Leader in the clerk rating, ca. 1941. This is the only image I have found of a collar disc on the shirt of an in-service enrollee. Source: Library of Congress Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information collection.
Camp officers with CCC diamonds on collars and campaign hats, Company 4421, Franklinton, LA in December 1940. The diamond was an officer rather than an enrollee purchase item. Source: Cindy Collins' CCC website, Southeastern Louisiana State University.
Collar discs are an iconic US Army identifying device dating back the era of the Great War.
These one-inch metal discs identifying unit or branch of service were originally intended to be worn on the standing "choker" collar of the World War I Service Coat. During the Great War doughboys took to pinning them on their overseas caps; by 1918, caps came with a prefinished hole to accept the stud of the disc. After 1925 the discs migrated to the lapels of the new Service Coat.
CCC collar discs appeared almost immediately in 1933. In addition to CCC or, rarely, ECW discs, others were made to represent the government technical branches which sponsored the camps and directed the work, such as the Soil Conservation Service or the US Forest Service. Army officers and representatives of the technical departments rather than enrollees were the core market for collar discs, though there are a handful of images of them on enrollee shirts and overseas caps.
The withdrawal of the US Army from direct command of the CCC camps in 1939 seems to have prompted a redesign, likely mandated, of the collar insignia. Military-style discs were replaced by smaller diamonds, with the CCC logo to be worn on the right collar and the CCC Corps Area number on the left. These diamonds were definitely intended for the civilian camp officers' uniforms rather than for enrollees.
Image from the 1938 Manual and Camp Regulations for Enrollees of Company 3724, Keosauqua, IA. The Camp Commander, Capt. W.H. Owen, Jr., U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps Reserve, seems to have been unusually strict regarding placement of insignia and patches, and specified for his boys exactly how to wear the collar discs if they were so inclined. Source: post by forum member Garth Thompson in topic "Civilian Conservation Corps Patches Insignia" in the US Militaria Forum.
Collar disc gallery. Left to right, generic US service disc (usually worn on right collar), and four branch of service discs (left collar): CCC, US Forest Service, Soil Conservation Service, State Forest Service. Source: Collection of the author.
Collar diamond gallery. Two CCC diamonds, and 5 and 1 Corps Area diamonds. Source: Collection of the author.
ART DECO C.C.C. PIN
The art deco CCC text collar pin is a common and attractive collectible. The pin appeared as early as 1934.
The lettering style derives from a military pattern dating back to the Great War. Insignia in this style became very popular after the introduction of the M1926 Service Coat--it seems the text letters were felt to be a sharper ornament than collar disks for the new, more tailored coat.
Cast in soft metal, the usual design incorporates the letters C.C.C. with the separating periods in a sans serif Art Deco font. Offered by several different vendors, it was featured in jewelry catalogs throughout the life of the program.
As with the collar disc, images of the CCC pin on the uniforms of enrollees during their term of service are vanishingly rare. One suspects the pins may have been bought more often as souvenirs to wear after service than for use in camp.
That said, there were a handful of CCC units that seemed to take particular pride in wearing them. In at least one instance shown below, enrollees placed a special order for matching art deco pins with their company number, so they could wear C.C.C. on one collar and their company number on the other.
Two examples of the CCC text pin. Top, typical style with periods separating letters. Bottom, crude version with no periods and the connecting bar flush with the letter face rather than recessed. I have only seen this one example of the cruder style. Source: Collection of the author.
Our old friends, the boys of Camp Morton, Company 341, Project S-104-Pa, Benton, PA. The Company 341 boys seem to have been enamored with the letter pin. On the enrollee center left, the C.C.C pin is on the enrollee's right collar point and a custom 341 unit pin is on the left. The young enrollee next to him has his C.C.C. pin cheekily attached to his breast pocket flap. Source: Collection of Charles Libby, reproduced in Williamsport Sun-Gazette, October 16, 2017.
CCC LOGO PATCHES
Prior to 1938 or 1939 the CCC had no official logo. Private vendors were left to their own devices. Through some Darwinian process of convergent evolution, the industry settled on a green on red color palette and a stylized pine tree to represent the CCC.
Pine tree logo patches appeared most commonly in a triangular format, with as many different detailed designs as there were vendors. The triangles could be accessorized with a unit number rocker that fit below the bottom edge. Square format versions are also known, though less common. In the middle 1930s a shield-shaped CCC logo patch including a stylized transit along with the pine tree had a brief vogue.
One notable exception to the green-on-red scheme was a special set of insignia marketed to Veterans' Companies, i.e., CCC companies made of up exclusively of World War I veterans in their 30s or 40s. The veterans' patch usually appeared in gold on black, and included an "inverted" pine tree logo placed inside a framing "V" for veteran.
The introduction of the spruce-green dress uniform in 1939 saw the debut of the only official CCC patch ever issued, the familiar green-on-gold landscape-in-circle design with the distinctive interlocked CCC in half-serif letters. Logo patches in the new design were applied at the depot to the left shoulder of the sack coat and to the left front of the spruce green overseas cap before they were issued to enrollees.
A gold-on-black version of the landscape logo also exists, appearing from 1938 onward. This less common version thus predates the standardized green-on-gold by a year or so.
Three examples of the pine tree logo patch, circa 1934-35. Source: Collection of the author.
Gold-on-black "V" CCC logo patch specific to veterans' companies; inverted pine tree logo frames "V" device for Veteran. This patch appears on the sleeve of an M1917 WWI surplus overcoat issued to an enrollee in Company 1671, organized in 1933 and initially posted at Mackinac Island, MI. Source: Collection of the author.
Green-on-gold landscape-in-circle, ca. 1939-41, the only government-issued CCC logo patch. Source: Collection of the author.
RANK CHEVRONS AND SPECIALTY PATCHES
Typical combined rank-and-rating patch for a Leader in the mechanic rating. Source: Collection of the author.
Enrollees in the CCC could be appointed to leadership roles within the company. The rank structure was Enrollee, Assistant Leader, and Leader, corresponding loosely to Private, Corporal, and Sargeant in the military. The civilian rather than military terms were always used for CCC rank.
Patch vendors promoted the use of chevrons to indicate camp rank. The common scheme was one chevron for an enrollee (almost never seen--ordinary enrollees felt no need to advertise their lowly station), two for Assistant Leader, and three for Leader. The chevrons were worn point up, and commonly placed on the left sleeve. Though never mandatory, rank chevrons are more common than logo patches in actual images of enrollees, unsurprising given that they functioned as signals of real authority rather than mere tokens of membership.
In each company some enrollees were selected to hold skilled specialist positions within the camp, such as cook, medical orderly, supply clerk, mechanic, driver, or company clerk. Patch vendors developed a dizzying array of rating icons to denote these specialties. Rating symbols were offered as separate patches, and also in combination with chevrons as rank-and-rating patches.
Most CCC rank and rating patches followed the green-on-red color scheme. In 1938 and 1939 an alternative gold-on-black scheme similar to the early Veteran's Company logo patch became briefly popular. Still more rare are other schemes such as gold-on-blue.
Introduction of the spruce green uniform in 1939 seems to have been accompanied by a crackdown on rank insignia. Perhaps to reemphasize the civilian character of the CCC, chevrons were abolished in favor of thin rank bands which ran around the entire sleeve.
Patches are a fun and vibrant area of collecting. That said, it should be re-emphasized that a plain shirt without insignia was overwhelmingly the default appearance of real CCC enrollees.
For further information and a wealth of images, I recommend the discussion topic "Civilian Conservation Corps Patches Insignia" in the US Militaria Forum. Within that topic, note especially the PDF guide to CCC patches offered by the poster "Hardstripe."
Three examples of original shirts with patches applied by enrollees. Left, the rarely-applied single chevron for an enrollee, with a motor pool rating patch and shield logos on both pockets. Center, shirt worn by Fred Fretheim of CCC Company 3707, Two Harbors, Minnesota, ca. 1936–1937, with Assistant Leader chevron, square pine tree logo, and stripes denoting three terms of enrollment. Right, the very rare gray issue of the uniform shirt with company-specific patch for Company 728 in Missouri, combined Assistant Leader and motor pool rating patch, and five term of enrollment strips, all in the uncommon gold on blue scheme. Sources: Left, expired eBay auction saved to Pinterest; center, Minnesota Historical Society; Right, expired eBay auction archived in Worthpoint.
During its final years the CCC found it increasingly difficult to attract and retain enrollees. In an effort to build esprit de corps, headquarters mandated that each CCC company should hold a contest to design a unique company-specific logo patch. The company patch could be applied the the top of the either the left sleeve or both sleeves of the uniform shirt.
These company-designed patches are attractive examples of folk art, and an evocative legacy of individual camps.
Images of company patches on uniform shirts in CCC service are almost nonexistant. However, photographs of enrollees from 1940 through 1942 are scarce in general, so absence of evidence should not be construed as evidence of absence.
The discussion topic "Civilian Conservation Corps Patches Insignia" in the US Militaria Forum offers a wealth of images of company patches.
INSIGNIA IMAGE GALLERY
Pine tree triangular logo patch on left shoulder of enrollee This man is the only enrollee in a group of 46 with a logo patch, a typical ratio. Likely Sheep Ranch Camp, Project F4, Lousiana, 1934. Source: Rivet Head blog post, February 2011.
Several square pine tree logo patches above the left breast pockets, two men center and one upper right. The man at right center also likely has a souvenir CCC tie clasp at the overlap of his crossed tie ends. The man on left is wearing the uniform shirt as a pullover on top of a civilian white shirt and tie. Original caption implies these two men may be civilian advisors, i.e., Local Experienced Men or "Long Eared Mules." Company 352, Clifftop, WV, 1937. Source: West Virginia CCC Legacy website.
Green-on-red Leader's chevrons on the post-1935 Heavy Navy Coat. Placing a rank device on outerwear was very uncommon. Source: unknown original, personal communication from Mark Headlee.
Green-on-red rank chevrons on Assistant Leaders at at Camp Crawford, Elizabeth, Wirt County, W. Va. Boy second from right also has square pine tree logo patch over left breast pocket. Source: Evans Collection, West Virginia and Regional History Center, IDNO: 017887.
Our ca. 1940 company clerk again. In addition to collar discs, he has a square landscape logo patch, Leader rank chevrons, and clerk rating patch (crossed quill pens), all in the late gold-on-black scheme. Unusually, patches are on right sleeve rather than, or in addition to, the left. Source: Library of Congress Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information collection.
MESS KITS AND CANTEENS
During most of the mobilization year of 1933 CCC boys lived in Army tents and ate from chow lines at field kitchens. Not until winter 1933-34 were most companies able to construct their camp barracks and kitchen buildings.
The boys were issued standard World War I surplus aluminum mess kits, of which the Quartermaster Corps had a nearly bottomless supply. DIfferent companies semeed to handle mess kits differently. In some cases, boys kept the kits in their footlockers as individual kit. In others, the mess kits were treated as company gear--part of the mess department's TOE. It appears most camps phased out the field mess kits in favor of QMC dining hall china and flatware once their mess buildings were up and running.
US Army Reserve 2nd Lieutenant William E. WIlhelm served as Mess Officer at Company 2352, Baynesville, VA, in 1934 and 1935. He left us a detailed reminiscence of the use and eventual retirement of the field mess kits:
"The CCC boys used aluminum mess gear. After eating, the 'boys' would empty uneaten food into a G.I. can, then rinse their mess kits into a hot soapy water in a 2nd G.I. can followed by rinsing in a 3rd G.I. can full of clean hot water. Mess gear was inspected daily at the mess hall and kept clean by rubbing with sand. During my duty as Mess Officer, I learned that we could purchase "china" dishes, etc. from the Quarter Master in Penna, provided the money was saved from the mess. By saving once cent to two cents per man per day, we could obtain china and return the mess gear."
Below is a typical 1918 aluminum mess kit with the corresponding knife, fork and spoon set. Images of such gear in the hands of the early CCC are ubiquitous.
Original M1918 aluminum mess gear, gallery of four images. Source: Collection of the author.
WWI-era mess gear in the chow line, CCC Company 1333 Camp S-63, Poe Valley, PA. A couple of boys have mastered the trick of holding the plate (i.e., the flat cover) on top of the handle of the meat can (i.e., the oval dish body with the handle) with the thumb. Source: Centre County Historical Society.
Field work is thirsty work, and CCC boys needed to stay hydrated. To carry water the C's employed two different types of canteens--drum-style canteens on the US Forest Service pattern, and M1910 military canteens and cups.
DRUM CANTEEN, 4 QUART, US FOREST SERVICE PATTERN
Two images, composite-style USFS 4 quart canteen. Source: Collection of the author.
During the 19th century the US military used a variety of galvanized tin drum canteens. By the 20th century the design of these cans had converged on a fairly standard 4 quart size.
In 1910 the US Army introduced a radically re-imagined 1 quart personal canteen (discussed below). The US Forest Service, however, remained loyal to the venerable 4 quart design.
By the 1930s the common USFS canteen combined canvas covers over the tin drum faces with an exposed metal circumference hoop. The hoop included hinged metal loops through which was passed a herringbone weave canvas carry strap. This composite design eliminated the need for a separate canvas cover. However, canteens following the older pattern of a tin body inside a separate carry bag are also seen in CCC-era images.
USFS-owned canteens were stenciled on the drum face with a USFS shield logo.
Images of 4 quart drum canteens around CCC work parties are common. Some may have been drawn temporarily from USFS firefighting equipment caches when the CCC boys were deployed on firefighting duty. Others may have been purchased new by camp supply officers as part of the company equipment and tool stock.
Enrollee driver Merle Timblin of the Nogales, AZ camp holds a standard USFS-style composite 4 quart canteen. Source: post "Truck Drivers in the CCC: There Was a Lot Riding on their Work" in Civilian Conservation Corps Resource Page.
M1910 CANTEENS, CUPS, AND COVERS
An M1910 canteen in a post-1917 canvas dismounted cover. Cover stenciled once for CCC Company 3452, another time for a US Army Infantry unit. The order of the stencils could have gone either way: the QMC withdrew gear from the CCC and reissued it to the Army and vice-versa. That said, the style of the military stencil matches WWI practice. Source: National Park Service.
A cavalry cover with a hand-painted Pennsylvania State Forest Service logo and the name Francis E. Miller inked on the bottom. Mr. Miller was quite possibly a CCC technical supervisor. Source: Bullfrog Militaria.
Canteen gear in the M1910 pattern is ubiquitous in CCC images-- or at least, the canteen cups are. Though present, the canteens themselves show up rather more rarely.
The M1910 canteen is a landmark in industrial design, among the most successful and ubiquitous American-made objects of the 20th century. It is a 1 qt canteen made of lightweight, non-rusting aluminum. The bottle is subtly contoured with a kidney-shaped indent on one side to fit the curve of the user's buttock when clipped to a waist belt. This curved form is one of the first examples of deliberate ergonomic design applied to a mass produced object.
So unfamiliar in form was the M1910 that when it was first introduced skeptical old troopers referred to it derisively it as the "teakettle," invoking the only shape in their visual vocabulary which the new canteen remotely resembled. This knickname is the origin of the phrase "falling ass over teakettle"-- to take a pratfall so violent that your tailbone rotates around the M1910 "teakettle" clipped to your belt.
Though details changed subtly, the same basic design was in continuous use and production from 1910 into the 1960s.
The M1910 aluminum bottle came with a matching aluminum cup into which the bottle fit snugly. The cup had a hinged, right-angled handle which folded down along the side and bottom of the cup when not in use. Cup and canteen slipped into a felt-lined, olive drab canvas pouch. These pouches came in a variety of designs, notably models with two-pronged belt clips to attach to grommited holes in the infantry web belt, or, with straps and a single snap to attach to a ring on a cavalry saddle.
Left and below are images of a variety of surviving M1910 kits with CCC markings.
Images of the canteen on the belt of a CCC boy in the field are rare--the boys found it more convenient to go back to the truck and drink from a water drum, lister bag, or 4 quart canteen than to carry their own water. However, the M1910 folding cup is ubiquitous in early CCC images as the essential companion to the WWI-era mess kit.
Three images, post-1917 cavalry-style carrier stenciled CCC below the standard "US" stencil, presumed CCC company number 8512 stenciled on back. Cover manufactured in 1934 at Jefferson Quartermaster Depot, Missouri. The canteen inside dates to 1918. Source: Overlooked Military Surplus.
Barracks inspection. Note M1910 canteens in canvas covers on the wall racks. One suspects the canteens spent more time there than in the field. Source: unknown.
Work gloves were routine safety items for CCC boys during their seven-and-a-half hour working day. Written documentation of the type of work gloves issued to the 3Cs is nonexistent.
The most common glove in CCC images is a standard civilian gauntlet glove. Given the pace at which gloves wore out, it seems likely they were treated as a camp consumable item, with replacements paid for from the camp budget and ordered from commercial mail order vendors or local hardware stores as needed.
However, there is also evidence of one standard US Army work glove being centrally issued to the CCC from Quartermaster stocks, discussed below.
CIVILIAN GAUNTLET COWHIDE WORK GLOVES
From contemporary photographs it appears that generic civilian cowhide gauntlet gloves were ubiquitous in the CCC.
These gloves usually have roughout cowhide palms, roughout or grain cowhide uppers and finger backs, and fabric gauntlets. In CCC images the gauntlet fabric often appears to be a solid off-white rather than a pinstripe pattern. A leather protective strap across the back to cover the knuckles is also common.
Gloves of this style wear out rapidly in the field, and surviving examples from the 1930s are correspondingly rare. However, gloves of a visually similar style are common to this day.
Any modern cowhide gauntlet glove in off white or a subdued pattern is probably sufficient for a visual impression of a CCC worker--the more worn, the better.
Civilian SAFE Brand gauntlet glove. Enrollee plants a locust tree, circa 1935. This planting took place as part of a Lexington, Tennessee reforestation project. Source: National Archives via Wikimedia Commons.
GLOVES, HEAVY LEATHER, SPECIFICATION 9-27, 1925
GLOVES, HEAVY LEATHER, CCC-SPECIFIC TENTATIVE SPECIFICATION DATED 31 JANUARY 1935
Deadstock US Army Heavy Leather Glove, manufactured for CCC under an ECF contract dated March 29, 1935. This pair of gloves was actually issued to a US Army Air Force recruit in 1940. Source: Topic "CCC/U. S. Army Uniform, Work" by user HPA REP in Denimbro discussion forum.
The Army had a standing specification for an all-leather heavy work glove from at least 1925. These were special issue items intended for troops whose occupational specialty required heavy industrial work where lighter gloves would be inadequate.
As World War II military clothing historian Christoper Reuscher notes,
"Pre-war gloves involved a 3-piece design, made of horsehide, where a flesh-out top was joined to a top grain palm side and then a short gauntlet-like cuff was attached to protect the wrist. The outer edge of the cuff had an open seam that could be closed around the wrist using a short tab and pressure snap arrangement."
The glove at left is a pristine deadstock example of a CCC-specific work glove identical to the standard Army 9-27. The ink stamp inside the gauntlet indicates it was manufactured under a tentative specification dated January 31, 1935, and made under a ECW contract award made on March 28, 1935.
Sadly, original Army heavy leather gloves are vanishingly rare, and the design has never been reproduced.
CCC workers wearing the Heavy Leather Glove. Note ribs on back, grain out index finger on boy in left image, and snap closure on short cuff. Left, "Typical CCC Enrollee" on the Bureau of Reclamation's Columbia Basin projects, September 1935. Source: National Archives via Wikimedia Commons. Right, CCC Boys at work, Prince George's County, Maryland, August 1935. Credit: Carl Mydans photograph, Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress.
RUCKSACKS AND HAVERSACKS
The topic of general-issue CCC rucksacks is easily covered: they did not exist. There is no visual evidence to show that the CCC was ever issued any of the US Army's common rucksacks or musette bags.
The absence of personal packs reflects the CCC's unique status as the first fully mechanized workforce ever fielded by the US government. Every CCC camp included a motor pool of stake bed trucks, and enrollees were transported to their work site each morning by vehicle. With trucks available to transport tools, water, field kitchens, and the boys themselves to the job site, there was no need to issue personal rucksacks.
The Minnesota Historical Society does have in its collections one remarkable object, a small khaki canvas rucksack belonging to Fred Fretheim, CCC Company 3707, Two Harbors, Minnesota, ca. 1936–1937. There is every reason to believe this was a personal item, a civilian rucksack which was Mr. Fretheim's personal property. Fred was clearly proud to be in the 3C's, and he ornamented his personal pack with a square pine tree CCC patch.
Below is Fred's rucksack, alongside a very similar civilian model in olive rather than khaki canvas.
A strikingly similar civilian canvas knapsack. This version is olive rather than khaki, and has canvas rather than leather straps, but is otherwise very comparable in form, dimensions, and construction. Source: Collection of the author.