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American Geographical Society

Geographers and the Tennessee Valley Authority


Author(s): Ronald Reed Boyce
Source: Geographical Review, Vol. 94, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 23-42
Published by: American Geographical Society
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AND THETENNESSEE
GEOGRAPHERS VALLEY
AUTHORITY*
RONALD REED BOYCE

The TennesseeValleyAuthority (TvA) was the largest,most comprehensive,and


ABSTRACT.
most controversialregionaldevelopmentand planning projectin U.S. history.Geographers
were involved from its inception and made impressivecontributions.Aside from the unit
areamethod of data gatheringand mapping,little is known about their contributions,some
of which were truly ahead of their time. Although their work and recommendationswere
often discardedand unheeded because of political turbulence,the geographersrarelycom-
plained or enteredinto the political arena.Their work in the TVAhas generallygone unher-
alded and even unappreciatedwithin the geographyprofession.The primarypurposeof this
article is to document their contributions.Keywords:geographicalsynthesis,TennesseeValley
Authority,tradeareaanalysis,unit area method.

On 19 April1933, afterlessthanone monthin office,PresidentFranklinDelano


Roosevelt eloquentlyarguedbefore the U.S. Congressthat the comprehensivede-
velopment and planningof the entireTennesseeValleydrainagebasin would be an
important antidote for the Great Depression. He insisted that the project "tran-
scends mere powerdevelopment:it entersthe wide fields of flood control,refores-
tation, elimination from agriculturaluse of marginallands, and the distribution
and diversification of industry" (quoted in Rosenman 1933,123). In fact, the project
would requirethe planned and coordinateddevelopment of all the resourcesin a
seven-state area (Clapp 1956, 6). When PresidentRoosevelt signed the Tennessee
Valley Authority (TVA)Act on 18 May 1933,he launched the largest, most ambitious,
and unquestionablymost controversialregional development planning project in
U.S. history-and the only such projectever undertakenin the nation.
The TVAwas organizedinto about a dozen divisions and severaloffices, each
with a numberof subsections.Eachunit would have considerableauthority,and its
leaders were to be encouragedto offer suggestions for achieving the general TVA
goals.An activeand involvedthree-manboard would make final policy.All hiring
and firing was to be nonpolitical,and advancementwas to be by merit and perfor-
mance only. Most novel, and very controversial,was how the TVAwould take over
the functions of half a dozen governmentbureausand agenciesin the TVAwater-
shed (Lilienthal 1953).
The generalgoals of the TVAwere to improve agriculture,industry,and com-
merce and to elevatethe generalstandardof living in the region. Farming,the pri-

I wishto thankMarionE.Marts,GilbertF.White,ChauncyD.Harris,andGeoffrey Martinforcriticalguidance


in the earlystagesof thestudy.I alsoowea specialdebtto themanypeoplewhoprovidedinformation in letters
andinterviews, aswellasto EdwinJ.Best,reference of theTennessee
librarian ValleyAuthority, forverifyingallthe
writingsof geographers whileat theTvA.I wishto thankparticularly
thethreeanonymous reviewersof thisarticle
for theirhelpfuladvice.Thanksalsoto DominicWilliamsonandAndrewRodman,Instructional Technology
Services,SeattlePacificUniversity,
forpreparingtheillustrations
forpublication. I wouldliketo thankthe
Finally,
editorsof the GeographicalReview,DouglasJohnsonandViolaHaarmann, for alltheirassistance.

At- DR. BOYCEis a professoremeritusof geographyat SeattlePacificUniversity,Seattle,Washington


98119.
The Geographical Review 94 (1): 23-42, January 2004
Copyright © 2005by the AmericanGeographicalSocietyof New York
24 THE GEOGRAPHICAL
REVIEW

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GEOGRAPHERS AND THE TVA 25

maryactivity,wasespeciallydepressed,and TVAlegislationrequiredthatfertilizer
and powerbe availableto farmersat the lowest possible prices.The legislationalso
specifiedthat some farmlandthat had been heavilyeroded by the growing of row
crops-especially cotton, tobacco, and corn-on steep slopes be taken out of pro-
duction and reforested.Another issue was the need to aid existingbusinessesand
attractnew industry.To accomplishthese goals the TVAwas to seek state and local
cooperationthroughthe democraticprocessthat today is referredto as "grassroots
democracy."To its many critics, "grassrootsdemocracy"simply meant that local
power groups such as the FarmBureauFederationand the AgriculturalExtension
Service had to bow to TVA demands, particularlythose that would benefit large
landholders,such as white planters(Leuchtenburg1963,86-87). The primarygoal
was the generationof power from the dams to provide ruralelectrification.
The immediatetasksof the TVAwereto inventoryand purchasethe land needed
for building dams and reservoirs,to begin constructionof the Norris Dam on the
upper Tennesseeby October 1933, and to alternateconstructingan upriverflood-
control storagedam with constructinga multipurpose(flood control, navigation,
and power) dam on the lower Tennessee,therebycreatinga 650-mile-longnaviga-
tion channelfromPaducah,Kentuckyto Knoxville,Tennessee.Workon the Wheeler
Dam in Alabama,the first downrivermultipurposedam and reservoir,began on
21 December 1933 (Sayford 1935) (Figure 1).
The regionaldevelopmentaspects of the TVAproject requiredimmediatedata
andanalysis
gathering on a massive in agriculture,
scale,particularly and
forestry,
towndevelopment. TheDivisionof LandPlanning andHousing,withtheland-
scapearchitect
EarlS.Draperasdirector,
wascreatedtoaccomplishthattask.Draper
was interestedin town planning, conservation,and generalefficiency(Black2000,
85). The Universityof Chicago urban and regional geographerCharlesC. Colby
(1934-1944) was retained as a consultant. The division comprised five sections:
land classification,which included most of the geographerswho worked for the
TVAin its earlyyears;architecturaland aesthetic matters;town planning;conser-
vation and recreation;and service and drafting,which was later changedto maps
and mapping and eventuallyobtained divisional status (Massa 1995). G. Donald
Hudson (1934-1939), who had just completed his doctoral dissertation at the Uni-
versityof Chicago(1934), was appointedchief geographerof the LandClassification
Section. Other geographers,primarilyfrom the University of Chicago, included
Malcolm J. Proudfoot (1934-1935), Bernard H. Schockel (1934-1935), Robert
M. Glendinning (1934-1936), Victor Roterus (1935-1940), Allan A. Twitchell (1935),
and Howard V. Miller (1934-1944). Most of the geographers remained with the
TVAfor only a few years. They left because jobs became plentiful elsewhereand
perhapsbecause much of their early expectation of large-scaleregional planning
did not develop.
The geographersin the Division of LandPlanningand Housing undertookfive
majortasks:datagatheringand mapmaking,regionalanalysesand syntheses,farm-
ing and farmsteadanalyses,town economic-baseand trade-areaanalyses,and rec-
26 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

reationalstudies. They made substantialcontributionsto developingthe complex


data-gathering methods necessary to cover an area as vast as the Tennessee Valley
drainage system. They wrote dozens of reports, ranging from regional syntheses to
rigorous farm- and town-impact analyses. However, they were neither policymakers
nor strong advocates for particular development goals. Instead, they served largely
as scholar-servants, even as "hewers of facts and makers of maps" (Ullman 1960).'
In the eyes of the geography profession, this was not a particularly noble undertak-
ing, merely an opportunity for geographersto gain employment during difficult
times and to "earn their stripes" as geographers (Hudson 1976). Moreover, the work
was in applied geography,an area of endeavorwhich at that time was considered
secondaryto the more elegantuniversityresearch,publication,and teaching.
For this article,all reportsand studies in the archivesof the TVAmade by geog-
raphersbetween 1933 and 1940 were examined. The article is also based on inter-
views with people who had contact with geographerswho workedat the TVA.I am
particularly fortunate to have engaged in countless conversations with G. Donald
Hudson, my colleague and mentor, over several decades about the role of geogra-
phers in the TVAand to havebeen eventuallyentrustedwith his privatepapers.The
papers provide instructive insights into Hudson's TVA experience,including, for
example,his transmittallettersto his superior,DirectorDraper,which were part of
all reports.

THE NATURE OF GEOGRAPHY IN 1934

It is important to understandhow geographersat the time perceivedthemselves


among academicdisciplines,the tools they possessed,and their generalphilosophy
as to the natureof geography(Entrikinand Brunn1989).Suchperspectivesprovide
considerableinsight into how the geographersin the TVAthought they should re-
port to the professionand how the professionmight view their work.
By 1934geographyhad experiencedyears of bitter and divisive discussion, as
well as criticismfrom those in other disciplines,particularlyover the issue of envi-
ronmental determinism, a concept well demonstratedby Ellsworth Huntington
(Martin 1973).Overly enthusiasticadvocatesof environmentaldeterminismwere
often accused of making broad generalizations about man-land relationships,
whereby the physicalenvironmentwas presumed to generallydetermine the cul-
tural response.As appliedby some, the concept lackedsystematicanalysis.
To counteract this, some geographersinsisted that very careful,detailed, and
rigorousfield studies were the remedyfor broad spatialgeneralizations.This "new
geography"introducedthe famous field studiesand containedtechniquesthat were
to some degree carriedover into the initial TVA field studies. The new geography
philosophy,at least implicitly,was that one could not gather and map too many
data (Jonesand Finch 1925;Finch 1933). Covariationof datawas presumedto sug-
gest powerful relationshipsfor understandingand solving problems.The general
belief was that such facts,when mapped,would suggestto a knowledgeablegeogra-
pher not only what could be done but also what should be done. "Itwas concluded
GEOGRAPHERS AND THE TVA 27

that if the essentialfactswere known, certainabusesmight be abatedor prevented,


and lines of properdevelopmentactivitymight be instituted"(McMurry1936,95).
It was also the assumptionof geographersthat they should be the greatsynthesiz-
ers, therebyprovidingguidance and leadershipto those in more "narrow"profes-
sions.
Cartographerswere consideredprimarilyas an important adjunctto the aca-
demic profession"Cartography... was toleratedin universitydepartmentsof the
day mainly to the extent that an able graduatestudent, handy with pen and ink,
could make maps for the professors'papersfor the AAG,or base maps for the class
room"(Wray1996).Mapmakingwas not consideredthe highestform of geographical
practice.
Town and regional planning, an applied area, also was not fully appreciated
within the geographyprofession.Applied geographywas viewed with suspicion,
and its practitionershad only second-classcitizenshipin the profession.2Geogra-
phers studied the placement of cities and their economy,but their internalstruc-
ture was rarelyanalyzed;sociologists and town plannerswere the primaryexperts
on such matters.Consequently,the internal spatial structureof cities was largely
left to planners,landscapearchitects,and applied geographers.CharlesColby was
one of the few academicgeographerswho had a high regardfor planningand ap-
plied geographyand encouragedmany of his studentsto pursue a careerin plan-
ning (Starr 1995, 570).

DATA GATHERING AND MAPMAKING

The immediate task of the geographersin the Land ClassificationSection was to


make an inventoryof all lands under the TVA.Althoughthe detailedcontour maps
needed for dam and reservoirconstruction were preparedby the U.S. Corps of
Engineers(Sayford1935),land to be inundatedby reservoirs,as well as land adja-
cent to the proposed reservoirs,requiredprompt attentionby geographers.Farm-
lands needed to be inventoriedprior to purchase,roads and cemeterieshad to be
plannedfor relocation,farm-ownershippatternsneededto be determined,and con-
siderableother informationhad to be mapped.However,there were no good base
maps on which to plot such information.3
The TVAgeographersconductedpilot studiesin threeseparateareasof 550square
miles each and tried to use the fractionalcode method developed by Wellington
Jonesand VernonFinch (Hudson 1935c,4) by applyingnumeric coded datadirectly
on maps. It soon became clear,however,that althoughthe fractionalcode method
had been appliedsuccessfullyto small areas,such as fields, it was not suited to the
massiveinventoryof land requiredby the TVA.It was too slow, too costly,and too
tailoredto the microscaleof the farm field. To overcomethese limitationsthe TVA
geographersdesignedthe unit areamethod of land classification(Figure2). Unlike
most other techniquesused by geographersin the TVA, this method became well
known becauseit was describedin an Annalsof theAssociationofAmericanGeogra-
phersarticle (Hudson 1936c).
28 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

By applyingthe unit areamethod to the newly availableplanimetricaerialpho-


tographsthat had been contractedby the TVA, some 16,oo000 squaremiles of terri-
tory-about one-third of the TennesseeRiverwaterbasin-were inventoriedin just
two years.This may well have been the most data collected on such a vast areain
such a short time. It was an amazingachievement,and, as Hudson emphasized,it
required"doggedperseverance,long hours, and just plain hardwork"(1976).In his
report to Draper,Hudson statedthat by employingthe unit areamethod "roughly
20 square miles can be covered per man-day as compared to 300 to 400 acres" by
using the fractionalcode method (1935b).
To a considerableextentthe speed with which the inventorywas conductedwas
made possible by the largeunit area (200 acresor more) used for each parcelentry.
Numerous data were enteredin alphabeticand numeric code directlyon the unit
areachosen. For each unit area,at least fifteendetailedcategoriesof data,eachwith
about half a dozen choices, were entered on the aerialphotograph,either in the
"numerator"or in the "denominator"part of a short or long "fraction."Fieldjudg-
ment was requiredfor each entry,making it somewhatsubjective.4In the first two
yearsmore than to million entrieswere made on photographicfield maps.
The geographersdid not explainspecificallyhow the units of 200 acresor more
were determined. The units were too large for much farmsteadanalysis,because
most farms comprisedioo acres or less and contained considerablefield and crop
diversity.It is also difficultto understandwhy so many datawere required.Hudson
reasoned that the "objectiveof the Land ClassificationProgramis to provide land
planning with a base of operation much like that provided the engineer through
contour and geological maps and that provided the cost accountant through ex-
penditurerecords"(1935a).The criticaldata need, in light of TVA legislation,was to
identify and determine "the proper use of marginal lands" (U.S. Congress 1933,
S23, 69).
In the end, these detailedfield-generateddata were never used. A fiercedebate
among TVA directorserupted over planning policy and the use of such data with
respectto the TVAAct (U.S. Congress1933).A. E. Morgan,chairmanof the three-
man Boardof Directors,arguedthat such analysesshould be used for comprehen-
sive planning.Otherdirectorsreasonedthat the TennesseeValleyshould be planned
from the bottom up in a voluntary and "grassroots-democracy" fashion. Morgan
lost, PresidentRooseveltfiredhim for contumacy,and the gatheringof field datain
this manner was discontinued. How the TVA geographers viewed the controversy
and its consequences is not clear.They chose not to publish information about
their work, so their position remainsoff the record.

REGIONAL SYNTHESIS AND FARMSTEAD ANALYSES

The TVA geographersdid, however,preparea number of reports on the general


state of the farm economy as revealedby the 1930 Census of Agriculture.Isopleth
maps compiled on a county-unit basis documented the regional diversityof the
Tennesseebasin. Upon submission of the Rhea County data, Hudson defined the
GEOGRAPHERS AND THE TVA 29

Unit-AreaLandClasses Notation,TVA
Types of AgriculturalLand:
Short Fraction: Sample Polygons on Long Fraction:
SummaryAppraisal MaporAirphotoBase Detailed Conditions
One Roman Numeral 200-AcreMinimum
Numerator:Land Use
Five Problem Classes First Digit..........5 classes
Second Digit...14 classes
Numerator:Use Quality ThirdDigit.........4 classes
IV3/4
One Digit.............5 classes Fourth Digit......5 classes
6 Fifth Digit..........5 classes
Denom:Land Quality
One Digit.............5 classes 1N333/4132114
4122114 Denom:Land Condition
First Digit.........6 classes
436
204 Second Digit....5classes
ThirdDigit........5classes
Fourth Digit.....4 classes
Fifth Digit........5 classes
Acres Sixth Digit........4 classes
Seventh Digit...5classes
Types of Non-AgriculturalLand: Numerator-One Digit,EightClasses,;
Denominator- Seven Diits, same classes as forAgricultural
Land

FIG. 2-An exampleof the unit-arealand classesnotation developedby geographersat the Tennes-
see ValleyAuthorityfor the purposeof rapid,large-scaledatagathering.Note the voluminousamount
of datathat could be coded in the field. (Draftedby JamesR. Wray)

nature and purpose of these studies as aiming "to furnish a perspective in which
more intensive studies may be viewed, and to which land planning policies and
specific judgments of the Division [of Land Planning and Housing] may be related.
... The present study-drafted by Allan A. Twitchell-illustrates the type of general
conclusions which can be established by the synthesis of available materials.... This
kind of synthesis can rapidly be extended, by counties or groups of counties, to
other portions of the Valley" (1936b). Regional synthesis was considered the highest
skill of the geographer, bringing together all aspects of an area-physical, cultural,
historical-in order to gain comprehensive spatial understanding.
Although these attempts at regional synthesis were cursory, pragmatic in scope,
and limited to readily available data, they should not be minimized, for they may
well have been one of the TVA geographers' greatest contributions. By identifying
subregions within the TVAthey demonstrated the fallacy of the common assump-
tion that "one suit fits all" (Garrison 1996), and they showed that different approaches
were needed in different parts of the Tennessee Valley.
Studies were based on county data available from the Department of Agricul-
ture. The entire Tennessee River basin was examined, and maps for each census
year were generated. Forty-seven maps from the 193o Census of Population and
Housing data were submitted between 1936 and 1937 alone (Figure 3). These maps
featured critical row crops, such as corn, tobacco, or cotton, as well as general crop-
30 THE GEOGRAPHICALREVIEW

DISTPIBUTION OF C1OPI FAILUIE


DERCENT OF LAND IN FARMS, IASED ON g030 CENSUS DATA BY COUNTIES
IN
TENNESSEE VALLEY f SURROUNDING AREA
10 0SCALEINMILES
10 70 30 40 50
PREPAREDAY
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHOPITY
DIVIS.ON OF LAND PLANNING b HOUSING

FIG.3-Geographers compileddozens of maps of the TennesseeValley,demonstratingthe regional


diversityof the areaand highlightingfarmingproblems.Source:TVA1936a,fig. 7. (Reproducedcour-
tesy of the TennesseeValleyAuthority)

FIGURE
II
RIVER
HUSTBURG-DUCK AREA
DIAGRAM
GENERALIZED :FOREST
OF LANDAND LANDUSE
RESIDENCE
PASTURE
LESPEDEZL GARDENS
BEANS
SOY IDLE
WLHE
IDLE

CORN TERRACE
LAND

BUCKR.
UPPERANDLOWER
BENCHES

FIRSTBOTTOMS

FIG.4-Dozens of farmswere examinedin the TennesseeValleydrainagearea,resultingin various


generalizeddiagramsof farmlanduse. In most instances,a long-lot farmpatternexisted.Source:Gray
1938,fig. II. (Reproducedcourtesyof the TennesseeValleyAuthority)
GEOGRAPHERS AND THE TVA 31

yield data for each.The studies clearlydemonstratedthe seriousnessof soil erosion


in the basin and documented the diversityof such problemswithin the Tennessee
Valley.
The regionalmaps allowedthe geographersto focus on the problemof erosion.
They documented the reasons for wholesale field abandonmentby examining in
detail a dozen farmsin various parts of the valley (Figure4), therebyobtaining a
comprehensiveunderstandingof the natureof the farmproblem.This was particu-
larlyinsightfulin the formulationof policies for "taking"(purchasing)entirefarm-
steads located near reservoirs.In most cases, the reservoirwould flood critical
bottomland and renderthe entire farm marginal.
The TVAgeographersunderstoodwell that,
Becauseof theerosivecharacterof the soils,onlythe fairlylevelportionsof upland
aresuitedfor cultivation.Lossof the bottomlands,fromwhichmost of the farm
incomeis derived,canonlyresultin moreintensivecultivationof theuplandunless
sourcesof incomeotherthanfarmingareavailable....Hillsidesthroughthesection
aregashedwithgullies,impartingto it anappearance of desolationandsterility....
In mostof thearea,thereareno bottomlands availableforagricultural
useandcon-
sequentlythe uplandsmustbe cultivated. Forthe whole,at least60 percentof the
clearedland is idle or abandoned.(Grayand Carringer1939, 15-17, 20)

In a report by E. N. Torbert, a geographer (1935-1939), a plan for action is articu-


lated in that "seriousdisturbanceto the economy of individualfarmsobviouslywill
be caused by the flooding of croplandsin the Tennesseeand tributarycreekbot-
toms. Unquestionably,a more intensiveuse of unpurchaseduplandwill follow.The
consequences,in terms of erosion and siltation,may constitutea serioushazardto
the Authority'sprogram"(Torbert1938,9). Althoughstrongremedialmeasureswere
recommendedin a number of studies,such as those by Torbert,few were adopted.
The general attitudewas that this kind of destructionwas inevitable:Farmers'as-
sumptions thatthey had a rightto produceany crop they wished on theirland were
at complete variancewith city planningand zoning laws at the time.
Seizing the golden opportunity to truly apply city planning zoning law to re-
gional planning might well have preventedthe disastersthat continued to plague
farmingin some partsof the valleyfor decades(Crosswhite1963, 155).Interestingly,
PresidentRoosevelthad made it clearthat applyingurban-planningproceduresin
ruralareaswould be beneficial:"Manyhardlessonshavetaughtus the human waste
that results from lack of planning. Here and there a few wise cities and counties
havelooked aheadand planned.But our nation has'just grown.'It is time to extend
planning to a wider field" (New York Times 1933, 1).5 On the other hand, Hudson
surelyknew that the Board of Directorswould not approvethe applicationof ur-
ban-planningprinciplesto rural areas.The directorof TVA'sDivision of Forestry
Relationshad previouslyrecommendedto the boardthat marginallandsbe subject
to regulationand that half of those landsbe placedin the public domain and man-
agedlike ForestServicelands.Not only did the board disapproveof the proposal,it
32 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

replacedthe division'schief foresterand adopted a formal policy of cooperative


arrangementswith other agenciesas "anexperimentin education"for the farmers
(Artman 1956, 177).
To their lasting credit,the TVAgeographersrecommended,and put into effect,
"aliberaltaking-landpolicy as applied to farm operators,depending on both bot-
tom and upland holdings"(Torbert1938, 11).They effectivelyarguedthat, if taking
part of a farm renderedthe remaindernonviable,the entire farm should be pur-
chased. Many of the farms followed a long-lot pattern:Bottomlands near rivers
were farmers'choice acreage,and farmsteadsthemselveswere located on higher,
hilly ground. In addition, many farmershad purchasedsome nearbybottomland,
even if it was not contiguous to their main operation. Therefore,if bottomland
were lost by inundation, an entire farm might be made marginal.Consequently,
more farms were purchasedoutright than would have been necessarysimply for
reservoirimpoundment and shoreline runoff or land-restorationpurposes.6
As might have been expected,this liberal land-takingpolicy was widely criti-
cized. The "overpurchase" of lands, especiallyaround the Norris Reservoir,led to
heated public debate.Geographers,however,deliberatelydid not engage in the ar-
gument.7The issue became so public and so fiercethat the TVA changed its land-
policyandretained
purchase publicaccessto thelakesonlyin certainkeyplaces.
that
Eventually landwasturned
overtolocaljurisdictions
andstatesforrecreational
managementpurposes(Nash1956,137-145).Onceagainthe recommendations
of
the TVAgeographerswere not acted upon.

TOWN ECONOMIC BASE AND TRADE AREA ANALYSES

Extensiveand impressivestudies were also conducted on the economic bases and


trade areasof towns, particularlyas they might be impactedby reservoirdevelop-
ment. Businessesin towns were inventoried,and calculationswere made as to the
likelyimpact of reservoirson total salesand services(Figure5). Likewise,the poten-
tial for new towns and their best locations receivedclose attention.The trade-area
studies were classic spatialinteractionstudies and predecessorsto the more rigor-
ous models of central place theory. Harold Brodsky'sinsightful article on "Retail
Area Overlap"(2003) is an example of such applied geographytoday.
The La Follettewholesaletrade-areastudy is an instructivecase and indicative
of the seminal nature of these studies and their possible lasting impact on profes-
sional geography.Hudson outlined it thus:
TheWholesaleTradeAreaof LaFollettewasdelimitedby locatingretailunitsthat
do partorallof theirwholesalebusinesswithLaFollettefirms.Theseunitsincluded
dealersin gasoline,groceriesandsugar,hardware
andfarmimplements, drygoods,
Dataon the sourceandvolumeof wholesalegoodshandledby these
andfertilizer.
retail units were obtained by interviewingowners or managersof retail establish-
ments. The final boundary of the WholesaleTradeArea of La Folletterepresentsa
compromisein wholesaletradeboundariesfor the five types of commodities indi-
cated. (1936a)
GEOGRAPHERS AND THE TVA 33

SODDY, TENNESSEE
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTI4OIITY
OF LANDPLANNING
DIVISION HOUSING
1936

CHART 9

OF DETAILTDADE 1935
DISTRIBUTION

46.1%

ANNUAL 'S OF
RELIEF CLASSESOFBUYERS SALES TOTAL
FARME
ON UNEMPLOVED FOREST ALL CLASSES 224,362 100.0
WORKERS FARM4FOQEST
WORKERS 79,745 35.5
MINE
WORKERSOTWERS50,858 22.7
TRANSIENTS 4,900 2.2
PERSONS PERSONS
ONRELIEFF 103,377 46.1
MINE WORKERS SOMEWORKKERS
ItMCLUDES EMPLOYED
INCHATTANOOGA.
SOMEPERSONS
tINCLUDES PARTOFTHIEIR
OBTAINIHG
SOTHERS INCOMEFROMFARMI$N.
TRANSIENTS THEREAREHOFACTORY
WORKERS
EMPLOYEDI SODDY.

CHART 10

MAXIMUM LOSSIN PETAILTRADE


DPPOBABLE
THDOUGfI
RESEPVOII SEVEANCE*

CLASSES OF ESTIMATED
LOSS %OFTOTAL
BUYERS ANNUAL
SALES AHII'L.
SALES1935
LOSS FROM
FARMWORKERS- ALL CLASSES 35,850 16.0
FARM WORKERS 10.5
23,.600
OTI-IERS
UNCLASSIFIED
URBAN i10,000 4.5
SERVICEWORKERS 2,250* 1.0
LOSSFROM LO'S
S"mNDIRFECT
SERVICE
WOIPKEI
LOSSFROMUNCLASSIFIED
URBANRESIDENTS

BASED ON FIELDINVESTIGATION

FIG. 5-Example of the retailtradeareaanalysisdevelopedby geographersat the TennesseeVal-


ley Authority for the purpose of assessingthe impact of reservoirdevelopmenton urban areas.
Note the tabulationof retail-tradesourcesfor each town and the probableloss in retailtrade be-
cause of reservoircurtailmentof the trade area. Source:TVA1936c,charts 9 and to. (Reproduced
courtesyof the TennesseeValleyAuthority)
34 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

TENNESSEE VALLEYAUTHORITY
'ROCKWOOo
DIVISIONOF
LANDPLANNING
ANDHOUSING
CHICKAMAUGARESERVOIR AREA
TRADE CENTERS AND TRADE AREAS
WEST OF TENNESSEE RIVER
TRADECENTER BOUNDARYOF
3 4TRADEAREA
0 1SCALEOF
MILES
21963
DEC

SPRINGCITYA

IP'NEV.LE

OECATriL
DAYTON

ATHEN

GIRAYSVILLE
i

9SAUL
6A6E1-

NAKFMAI

SODDY
CHARLESTON

AISY
LEGEND

Dayton TradeArea
Valley Plateau (Walden Ridge)

HYSOM
Soddy TradeArea

BARHAMAYDAM
]Valley
Plateau (Walden Ridge)

Sale CreekTradeArea

Valley Plateau (Walden Ridge)


CHATTANOOGA

FIG. 6-Trade centersin the ChickamaugaReservoirareain south-centralTennessee.The shapes of


the various trade areas for these contiguous towns are instructive.Each nodal region is elongated
tangentialto the main highwaybecause of a paucity of town competition in the tangentialareasas
well as the closenessof the competition of other towns beaded along Highway27. Source:TVA1936c,
frontispiece.(Reproducedcourtesyof the TennesseeValleyAuthority)
GEOGRAPHERS AND THE TVA 35

A hierarchyof goods and serviceareaswas delimited,and whatwe now call a"nodal


area"was identified.8
The Soddy,Tennesseetrade-areastudy providesanotherexcellentcase example
(Figure5). It was estimatedthat Soddy would lose 16 percent of its retailsales be-
causeof the expectedconstructionof the ChickamaugaReservoirwithinits trade
area.Thislosswascalculatedon thebasisof diminishednumbersof farmworkers,
non-farmworkers,andserviceworkersin the tradearea.Theloss of servicework-
erswas consideredan "indirectloss."Comparabletrade-areaimpactstudieswere
conductedfor the communitiesof Daisy,SaleCreek,Graysville,Dayton,Spring
City,andothersthatwereimpactedbytheChickamauga Reservoirin south-central
Tennessee(Figure6).
Thesestudiescontainsomevisionarytextwith regardto the growingpractice
of communityenticementof industry.AsTwitchellnoted:
Theseplantsemploymostlywomen,paylowwagesas comparedwithtextileplants
elsewhere... and have clearlyfailed to compensatefor the decline of the county's
extractiveindustries.Dayton,if not the othertownsof the county,is offeringnew
industrialplantstheinducementof taxexemption-alurewhichhasbeenaccompa-
nied elsewherein the stateby otherformsof industrialparasitism,andwhichis
comingto beviewedbypublicofficialsasa boomerangdetrimentto thecommuni-
ties offeringit. (1936, B-lo)

It is mostunfortunate
thatthiswisewarningwasnot heededin themanydeclining
communities in other areas(Ullman, Boyce,and Volk 1961).
The questionof new town developmentwas also examined,and some new com-
munities were built (TVA1937). The town of Norris, designed by Draper,was the
most famous, and the nationalpressshowcasedit as a model town (Sample1935).It
contained curved streets and culs-de-sac and was served by a parkwaydubbed a
"freeway" (Creese 1990, 242-251). Feasibility studies for other communities were
made,but the planto use Norris as the prototypefor many other towns, like almost
all of the plans for regionaldevelopment,was abandoned.In 1948 Norriswas priva-
tized and purchasedby a group of investorsfrom Philadelphia.What role, if any,
the TVAgeographersplayedin town developmentis not clear.

RECREATION STUDIES

Nor is it known how much the TVAgeographerscontributedto recreationand tour-


ism studies. Severalreports, for which Hudson wrote letters of transmittal,were
issuedby the Division of LandPlanningand Housing.Recreationand tourismwere
mentioned in a numberof other reportsas well,but primarilyin the contextof how
reservoirdevelopmentmightbenefitthem in the future.Appropriately,
the main
foci of attentionin the studiesundertakenby geographers
werefarmingand the
land"taking" issue,industry,jobs,andcommunityimpact.
Perhapsnot surprisingly,the TVAhad no recreationor tourism policy. One of
the statedgoals of its recreationplan for the WheelerReservoirwas developmentof
36 THE GEOGRAPHICAL
REVIEW

information so that a recreationand tourism policy could be recommended and


approvedby the TVA (Howes 1938, 8). The report states that "It may be assumed,
however,that TVA,since it is a governmentalcorporationfinancedby public funds
and committed to a programfor the public welfare,will adopt a policy favorable
toward recreationaluse of its reservoirproperties"(p. 9).
The Division of Land Planning and Housing issued a detailed report on the
Gilbertsville(KentuckyDam) Reservoirand its shorelinewith respectto recreation.
The report was most visionary,given the fact that it appearedduring the Great
Depression,when recreationwas a remote promise:
Thelakeis expectedto be outstanding forfishingandwaterfowl shooting.Itslarge
expanse of stillwater will be idealfor sailingand motor boating(withor without
surfboard riding).... Wooded shores and inletswillbe invitingforcanoesandrow
boats.... It is likelythattherewillbe a considerabledemandforswimmingfacilities.
... Picnickingwillprobablybe themostpopularuseof riparianlands,followedby
hiking,campingout,groupgames,useof overnightorvacationcabinsor inns,and
last,butnot least,loafing,withor withouta fishpolein hand.(TVA1936b, 4)
The recreation studies generally included an inventory of likely visitors to
reservoirs--basedon distance,income, and other factors--butlackedthe dollarmea-
surement of benefit/cost calculationsexpected today.Nor did the reports attempt
to weigh the benefits of recreationas comparedwith other beneficial uses of the
reservoirs.Recreationalattendanceat the TVA lakeswas used severaldecadeslater,
however,to help develop the spatial analog model for recreationbenefit calcula-
tions in the MeramecBasin study in Saint Louis (Ullman, Boyce, and Volk 1961;
Ullman 1980).

WHY DID THE GEOGRAPHERS PUBLISH SO LITTLE ABOUT THE TVA?


With the exception of Howard Miller,who remained with the TVA for ten years
(until 1944), geographers left within a few years of the TVA's establishment. This
abbreviatedservice may explain why geographerspublished so little about their
TVAefforts.Certainly,the work they undertookwas not brought to practicalfrui-
tion.
Regional planning and developmentwere dropped from the TVA prioritiesin
1938, and most of the regional-planning unit was eliminated (Martin 1956, 265).
William Leuchtenburgpointed out that the "TVAnever fulfilleditself as an experi-
ment in regionalplanning .... After1938,the TVAsqueamishlyavoidedeven using
the word 'plan'" (1963,165).The final hope for regionalplanning throughout the
United Stateswas dashedin 1948 when the National ResourcesPlanningBoardwas
voided (Creese 1990o,330).
Exceptfor the unit areamappingmethod, little was publishedabout the TVAby
its geographers.This is amazing,inasmuchas both MalcolmProudfootand Victor
Roteruspublishedprolificallyon town planningand industrialdevelopment.More-
over, very few doctoral dissertations on the TVAand only three master'stheses
GEOGRAPHERSAND THE TVA 37

(Hodgson 1936; Martin 1941; Otte 1941) about issues within the Tennessee Valley
were written. Surprisingly,Proudfootwrote his dissertationon the major outlying
business centersof Chicago (1936).
Consequently,there is also a paucityof publishedinformationabout the role of
geographersin the TVAand about the TVAitself written by geographers.This is
doubly surprisinggiven that much of the TVA'Swork was of great public interest
and that, more particularly,some of the work undertakenby the TVA geographers
would have been most valuableto the profession.J. RussellWhitakerpointed out
that geographersare "not noted for blowing their own horns" (1996). William
L. Garrisonsuggestedthat WorldWarII was the primarycause of changedpriori-
ties of both the nation and the geographyprofession (1996). Marion Marts,who
workedfor the Bureauof LandManagement,emphasizedthat employeeswere ex-
pected to clearall of their publicationswith their agencies,which may havebeen a
deterrentto publication(Marts1996). All reportswithin the TVAweremarked"This
reportis for use within the TVAonly. Not for publication."
Unlike other social scientists,geographersgenerallyavoidedpublic controversy,
policymakingissues,and politics, perhapsin orderto remain detachedand objec-
tive.The result,GeorgeDemko observed,has been that "too much of our work is of
little significanceand will be of no significance"(1988, 577).

SPIN-OFFS FROMTHE TVA

Although no furtherlarge-scaleprojectslike the TVA, wherein the federalgovern-


ment undertookcomprehensiveregionaldevelopment,emerged,the idea of river-
basin analysis and especially the multipurpose use of rivers and reservoirshave
become standardoperating procedure.The multiple-use concept set off serious
competition among the various options for reservoirdevelopment (Marts 1964).
WilliamC. Ackermanand J.H. Dawesconcludedthat"fromthe greatsuccesswhich
TVAwas, and is, we acceptedthe conceptof multipurposeriverbasin development.
It was amply demonstratedby TVA that such purposes as power, flood control,
navigation,water supply,and recreationcan be incorporatedinto a single water-
shed plan; the governmentalform of a federalcorporation,however,has been re-
jected by this country" (Ackerman and Dawes 1964,173).And even though the "TVA's
role eventuallyveeredfrom the originalideasthat fueledits founding,its true legacy
set the historic precedentof federalinvolvementin environmentalregulationand
policy making"(Black2000, 74).
A "nearmiss"in regional developmentand planning akin to the TVA also oc-
curred in the ColumbiaRiversystem.In 1927the FederalRiversand HarborsAct
recommended a system of dams on the Columbia. In 1934 President Roosevelt
stressedthe regionaldevelopmentaspectsof the Columbiaby declaringthat
Thisvastwaterpowercanbe of incalculable
valuein thiswholesectionof thecoun-
try.It meanscheapmanufacturing production,economyandcomforton the farm
andin thehousehold.... Overa yearago,whenwe firstestablished
theprincipleof
38 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

commencinggreatpublicworksprojectsin everypart of the Union, I became firmly


convinced that the FederalGovernmentought immediatelyto undertakethe con-
struction of the BonnevilleDam and the GrandCoulee Dam, and so we started...
Since then, two other yardstickshave been undertaken,one in the TennesseeValley,
one here on the ColumbiaRiver.(Quoted in Schwarz1993,299)

As might be expected,a cadreof geographerswas employedin the developmentof


the ColumbiaRivervalley,among them JeromeAnderson,HarlanBarrows,Marion
Marts,JamesMcBroom,HerbSimison,VincentThroop,E.N. Torbert(moved from
the TVA), and perhapsothers.Theirwork has not been fully investigated.
EdwardA. Ackerman,assistantgeneralmanagerfor programanalysisin the TVA
from 1952 to 1955, argued that several great river-basin projects around the world
were modeled on the TVA (1956): the Niger Rivernear Timbuktu;the VictoriaNile
near LakeVictoria;the Damodar tributaryof the Ganges;the Snow, Murray,and
MurrumbidgeeRiversin Australia;and the PapaloapanRiver in Mexico. But al-
though the multiple-use concept of river-basindevelopmentbecame standardin
the United States,the comprehensivecoordination and planning model of river-
basin developmentwas abandoned.

UNANSWERED
QUESTIONS
The studies of TVAgeographersdemonstratea greatgap betweenplanninglaw as it
pertains to cities and to rural areas.Urban planning and zoning had been firmly
establishedin 1926 by the famousEuclidv.AmblerRealtycase.The smallmunicipal-
ity of Euclid,a suburbof Cleveland,Ohio,passeda zoningordinancethatprohib-
itedtheindustrialuseof vacantlandin a partof Euclidin orderto protectresidential
property.Thezoningwasupheldin the U.S.SupremeCourt,therebymakingzon-
ing a policepowerwhereby,forthe welfareof a community,rightscouldbe taken
fromlandownerswithoutcompensation.In contrast,agricultural land-userights
were almost sacred.The geographersin the TVAmade some stridentrecommenda-
tions with respectto ruralland and the takingof farmsthat might be impactedand
made marginalby reservoirdevelopment-for which they were roundly criticized.
No similarrecommendationswere made for urbanbusinessesthat would be made
marginalby reservoirconstructionin their trade areas.In hindsight,it is apparent
that an opportunitymayhavebeen missedin the applicationof urbanland-use
planningand zoninglaw to ruralland use. Unfortunately,
this planningconcept
was not directlytransferredto the TVAlegislation.
Considerabledifferencesstill exist between police control of urban land and
that of ruralland. Ruralland-use rights are still treatedgenerously,whereasurban
land-use planning is much more restricted.Moreover,such zoning controls in cit-
ies are exercisedwithout compensation.Farmlandin the TennesseeValley,as else-
where,is still occasionallyabusedby farmers,though land erosion has been much
reduced.The precedentset by the TVA,wherebyeroded and idle land was restored
withoutpenaltyor costto the farmer,is no longerapplied.Thatpolicyfocusedon
remediesforland-useabuse,not on its causesandcures.
GEOGRAPHERS AND THE TVA 39

The world of the professionalgeographerhas gone through severalstagessince


the grandexperimentin extensivefield-datagatheringand regionalplanningof the
1930s.The"quantitative-statistical"revolutionreplacedwhatwas derisivelydescribed
as "meredescription"and data gathering(Ullman 1980). Model-buildingand be-
havioralanalysesalso have come in vogue. The old invincibilityof the hidden hand
of the marketplaceas creatinga better and more efficientworld, firstchallengedby
the TVA geographers,is againbeing questioned.
The frequentchurning and turning of geographyhas also led to forgetfulness
of--if not a lackof appreciationfor-the contributionsof bygone geographers.Many
questions asked today were posed by TVA geographerssome seven decades ago.
With the hindsight now afforded us, we see that they were surprisinglyclose to
makingsome majorbreakthroughs-inregionalsynthesis,in nodal regions,in quan-
titative analysisof spatialdata,and in recreationbenefits.But for variouspolitical,
practical,or philosophicalreasonstheir efforts were not passed on to the profes-
sion.Thiswasthe greatconcernexpressedby GilbertF.Whiteas to whythe TVA
"geographers'innovations in land classificationand local planning outreachwere
not continued and expanded"(1996).
Today the TVA undertaking of the 1930s remains wrapped in too much emo-
tional baggageto examine in a detached,objectivemanner.To some, it was a grand
experiment in resourcemanagementby the federal government that, thankfully,
failed;to others, it was a grand opportunity for regional planning on a large, re-
gional scale.The significanceof the work of the TVA geographersin advancingthe
field of geographyhas been lost in the shuffle.However,severalthings are certain:
Those geographersserved gallantlyand filed many insightful reports in the TVA,
were most modest in heraldingtheir accomplishments,avoided political contro-
versy both within and without the geographyprofession, and have not received
properrecognitionand appreciationfrom the professionfor the contributionsthey
made.
NOTES
1. EdwardL. Ullman explained to me in 1960 that he based his quip about the TVAunit area
method on Joshua9:27,wherein the Gibeonitesmade a covenantwith the Israelitesto be their ser-
vants as "hewersof wood and drawersof water."Ullman'smain criticismof this kind of data gather-
ing and mapping was that it was static (site oriented and vertical) ratherthan spatiallyinteractive
(situation orientedand horizontal).Becauseof the massiveamounts of data gathered,he insistedthat
such a procedurecommonly counted trees insteadof forests.
2. Appliedgeographerswere generallymembersof the AmericanSocietyof ProfessionalGeogra-
phers (ASPG). Membershipin the Associationof AmericanGeographers(AAG)was limitedto academic
geographersand wasby invitationonly.At the AAGmeetingsin Madison,Wisconsinin 1948,G. Donald
Hudson,RobertPlatt,and Cotton Matherwere instrumentalin mergingthe AAGand the ASPG.
3. The U.S. GeologicalSurveyonly had a few maps of the area,and there was no time to make
more. The contour maps needed for areasto be inundatedwere made by a combination of transit
points in conjunctionwith stereoscopicaerialphotographstakenby the U.S. Corpsof Engineers.The
geographersused these aerialphotographsfor their map plots.
4. Hudson stated that "the field men must have had at least one year of graduatetraining in
geography,includingdetailedfield mapping,and from two to four months of closely supervisedde-
tailed field mapping of the sort carriedon by the Land ClassificationSection. Before applyingland
40 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

classificationtechniquesindependently,field men must have six to eight weeks'work under the rigid
direction of an experienced supervisor" (1935c, 13).
5. In city planning, zoning had been declareda police function, requiringno compensationfor
any prohibiteduse. This possiblycould have been applied to the field-erosionproblem in the TVAin
such a manner as to protectthe land from erosion in the future.Politically,however,that was impos-
sible (New York Times 1933).
6. Hudson was very pleased with this liberal taking policy, and he frequentlyspoke about it.
However,despite the criticismsof "overpurchase" that later changed TVApolicy, he never published
any defense of the originalpolicy; nor, to my knowledge,did any of the other TVAgeographers.
7. I. RussellWhitakeremphasizedthat he was quite criticalof some of the TVApolicies,but when
Atlantic magazine asked him to write about them, he declined because he did not want to become
involvedin the controversy(1996).This attitudeseems to have been prevalentamong geographersat
the time.
8. In Hudson'sprivatepapersa note insertedinto the La Follettestudy reads:"Studyof this kind
would be interestingas a field problem for training camps-perhaps for master'sdegree."Interest-
ingly,Ullman's1945dissertationon the wholesaletrade area of Mobile,Alabama,written at the Uni-
versityof Chicago under Colby'ssupervision,was in many regardsthe prototype of such studies.

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42 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

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