They may look like white carpet, but they’re rolls of cotton. Because of an overproduction of cotton during the Great Depression, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) looked for ways to increase the consumption of American cotton. At the same time, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) looked to create jobs for the unemployed. In 1935 the government launched an experiment, dubbed “cotton roads,” that filled both needs. Twenty-four states, including Michigan, participated in the project to use cotton fabric on the road base as reinforcement under the surface mixture of tar and stones. Within two years, the venture was deemed unsuccessful and abandoned. Cotton roads never caught on. The experiment, however, gave job seekers a paycheck, made use of surplus cotton and proved that cotton–while useful for many things–is not good for road building.
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Photo Credit: Library of Congress: Austin Mach. Corp. steamroller