Created in 1933, this commemorative pillow sham was just one of a number of textiles created by second-generation Hungarian immigrant Rose Mary Drab to honor her brother Edward’s service in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Rose Mary appliquéd the black cotton sateen sham with a small cotton tent, a blue eagle and two small stars, and hills, pine trees, and a large sunburst all in green felted wool.
Both the sateen and felt were very likely bought new, despite the financial pressure of the Great Depression. The appliquéd blue eagle and two stars were not handmade and were either purchased or salvaged from another piece. The tent was probably a scrap taken from an old work shirt.
Yellow embroidery traces the outlines of the felt trees and star, as well as the text “US,” “CCC,” “ED” (for Edward Drab), “Pres. FDR,” the year 1933, and—on the canvas tent—Edward’s CCC Camp number, 657. Rose Mary also embroidered the slogan “When we finish our part / A new day will dawn” in red thread.
The sham is an example of Depression-era needlework from one of Wisconsin’s many immigrant families and is a distinct artifact of everyday life in Wisconsin’s Langlade County during the 1930s.
Listen below to the CCC Pillow Sham’s segment on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life
Written by Joe Hermolin
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The young men who lived and worked at Camp 657 were typical of Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees throughout the country during the 1930s. The first enrollees were between 18 and 25 years of age, were unmarried and physically fit, and were willing to allot most of their earnings to their families. In 1937, with the CCC’s popularity growing, Congress expanded the age range to 17 to 28 and later extended enrollment to World War I veterans.
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Special thanks to the textiles expertise of Leslie Bellais, Curator of Social History, Wisconsin Historical Society.
Object courtesy of the Langlade County Historical Society.
Object history created October 2015.