Of all the agencies established by the New Deal since 1933, Resettlement Administration, headed by Rexford Guy Tugwell, was possibly the most spectacular. Of all R. A.'s grandiose ventures, most spectacular was Greenbelt, irreverently known as "Tugwelltown," a model suburban town seven miles outside of Washington at Berwyn, Md.
In Washington one day last week, Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace made two announcements. One was that R. A., moribund since Dr. Tugwell resigned last winter, was at last officially dead. The other was that Greenbelt was at last ready for occupancy and that, when its first tenants move in about Oct. 1, all Greenbelt's commercial enterprises will be run by a branch of Boston Merchant Edward A. Filene's Consumer Distribution Corp.
Resettlement Administration started in 1935, spent $450,000,000 in two years. Its chief function was to move chunks of the U. S. population from unproductive terrain to land where they could make a living. Most remarkable of a series of what even the President called costly failures was an effort to settle 200 U. S. farmers in Alaska's Matanuska Valley, where many of those settlers, still remaining after two years of tribulation, are spending this summer trying to raise a crop of winter wheat because the Government supplied them with the wrong seed. In June 1936, R. A. had a 19,700 payroll. Last July, it had been cut almost in half. When R. A. officially died last week, its major functions were transferred to a new agency called Farm Security Administration, whose main job will be finishing R. A. projects already started, making tenant and rehabilitation loans with $10,000,000 appropriated by Congress, and to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which will have another $10,000,000 for submarginal land retirement. Said diplomatic Secretary Wallace: "Major activities in the future cannot accurately be described by the word 'resettlement.' "
Greenbelt, as a monument to R. A., is in a sense the most appropriate that could have been devised. Its cost $14,227,000. Its rent will bring in $60,000 a year. Last week the Greenbelt Tenant Selection Staff was busy picking from 9,000 families who wanted to live there, the 885 who will eventually do so.
Last week's deal with Consumer Distribution Corp. was a feather in the cap of philanthropic Merchant Filene, who since 1909 has been preaching the gospel of co-operative retail merchandising, financing co-ops through the uncooperative profits from Filene's Department Store. Consumer Distribution Corp. is the first enterprise of a new $1,000,000, Filene-financed corporation formed a year and a half ago to establish a nation-wide league of U. S. cooperatives. It will run Greenbelt's general store, food and meat market, drugstore, cinemansion, barber shop, garage and milk route. Prices will not be much lower than elsewhere but, after the Government gets a small percentage of the gross receipts, profits will go back to Greenbeltians. Landlord of Greenbelt will still be the U. S. Federal Government. When the town is fully populated, its residents can decide whether or not they want its retail outlets run by C. D. C.