The Tennessee Valley Association, the TVA, was always somewhere in the background of my awareness growing up- sort of like Bob Hope. I mean, it was something that people thought was a big deal, whenever the subject came up, but as a kid, well, I sure didn’t know why. I never thought Bob Hope’s jokes were funny, and I assumed that everybody always had electricity. What’s the big deal?
Both of these things were brands, and I didn’t know about brands when I was a kid. Well, I did, I was surrounded by them, but I didn’t know that they had to be carefully created and nurtured, like exotic flowers or something. The TVA was probably oversold a bit, but maybe not. From anything I’ve seen from 1933, from the Golden Gate Bridge, to Boulder (now Hoover) Dam, to the White Sea- Baltic canal in the U.S.S.R. there wasn’t anything in the works that compared to it in scope and ambition. Maybe the Soviet 5-year plan, or Germany’s re-armament. It was a big one.
Lots of little people lost their farms and homes as the dams went up, and there were a lot of dams. So there’s that angle. But this was also one of the poorest sections of the country. There was no electrical service to most of it, the people were hard hit by the depression, and, well, it was a trade-off.
On the positive side, it turned out to be a very popular project among the people of the region- hey, we’re not getting wiped out by floods every 10 years! I gots a warshing machine! And a job. It is proof that socialism works.
The private sector had actually tried to make this happen with one dam, and bailing out that failed project (the Wilson Dam) was what got this entire scheme rolling. Think big enough, and long-term enough, and this works. After about a decade of running deficits, the TVA has consistently been in the black. Go figure.
The last image is another of the many publications that folks turned to for entertainment in the time before television. There were dozens of monthlies about farming alone.
And today, you can see a map of the many resources of the Tennessee Valley region here.