Name: Date: Period: New Deal Cereal Box Project

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Projects Funded

The WPA legacy includes public recreation buildings. WPA canoe house, University of Iowa campus, 1937.
WPA historic building architectural drawing, Anson Brown Building, Ann Arbor, MI

Total expenditures on WPA projects through June 1941, totaled approximately $11.4 billion. Over $4 billion was spent on highway, road, and street projects; more than $1 billion on public buildings, including the iconic Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and the Timberline Lodge on Oregon's Mt. Hood;[15] more than $1 billion on publicly owned or operated utilities; and another $1 billion on welfare projects, including sewing projects for women, the distribution of surplus commodities and school lunch projects.[16] One construction project was the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut, the bridges of which were each designed as architecturally unique.[17] In its eight year run, the WPA built 325 firehouses and renovated 2384 of them across the United States. The 20,000 miles of water mains, installed by their hand as well, no doubt aided in a more fire protected country. [18]

The direct focus of the WPA projects changed with need. 1935 saw projects aimed at infrastructure improvement; roads, bringing electricity to rural areas, water conservation, sanitation and flood control. In 1936, as outlined in that year’s Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, public facilities became a focus; parks, buildings, utilities, airports, and transportation projects were funded. The following year, saw the introduction of agricultural pursuits in projects such as the production of marl fertilizer and the eradication of fungus pests. As the Second World War approached, and then eventually begun, WPA projects became increasingly defense related. [19]

Nancy Blair, state supervisor of the South Carolina WPA Library Project, inspecting a model of a bookmobile.

One project of the WPA was funding state-level library service demonstration projects, which aimed to create new areas of library service to underserved populations and extend rural service.[20] Another project was the Household Service Demonstration Project, which trained 30,000 women for domestic employment.

South Carolina had one of the larger state-wide library service demonstration project. At the end of the project in 1943, South Carolina had twelve publicly funded county libraries, one regional library, and a funded state library agency.[21]

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federally owned corporation in the United States created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression. The enterprise was a result of the efforts of Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska. TVA was envisioned not only as a provider, but also as a regional economic development agency that would use federal experts and electricity to rapidly modernize the region's economy and society.

TVA's service area covers most of Tennessee, parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and small slices of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. It was the first large regional planning agency of the federal government and remains the largest. Under the leadership of David Lilienthal ("Mr. TVA"), TVA became a model for America's governmental efforts to modernize Third World agrarian societies.

Even by Depression standards, the Tennessee Valley was in sad shape in 1933. Thirty percent of the population were affected by malaria, and the average income was only $639 per year, with some families surviving on as little as $100 per year.[citation needed] Much of the land had been farmed too hard for too long, eroding and depleting the soil. Crop yields had fallen along with farm incomes. The best timber had been cut, with another 10% of forests being burnt each year.[citation needed] Much of the population were living in conditions that would be similar to present-day developing countries.[citation needed]

TVA was designed to modernize the region, using experts and electricity to combat human and economic problems.[4] TVA developed fertilizers, taught farmers ways to improve crop yields and helped replant forests, control forest fires, and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. The most dramatic change in Valley life came from TVA-generated electricity. Electric lights and modern home appliances made life easier and farms more productive. Electricity also drew industries into the region, providing desperately needed jobs.

None of this was easy. The development of the dams displaced more than 15,000 families. This created anti-TVA sentiment in some rural communities.[citation needed] Many local landowners were suspicious of government agencies. But TVA successfully introduced new agricultural methods into traditional farming communities by blending in and finding local champions.

A Tennessee farmer would not take advice from an official in a suit and tie, so TVA officials had to find leaders in the communities and convince them that crop rotation and the judicious application of fertilizers could restore soil fertility. Once they had convinced the leaders, the rest followed.

At its inception, TVA was based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but later moved its headquarters to Knoxville, Tennessee, where they remain today. At one point, TVA's headquarters were housed in the old Federal Customs House at the corner of Clinch Avenue and Market Street. The building is now a museum.[5]

Civil Works Administration

The Civil Works Administration was established by the New Deal during the Great Depression to create manual labor jobs for millions of unemployed. The jobs were merely temporary, for the duration of the hard winter. Harry L. Hopkins was put in charge of the organization. President Franklin D. Roosevelt unveiled the CWA on November 8, 1933.

The CWA was a project created under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). The CWA created construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges. It ended on March 31, 1934, after spending $200 million a month and giving jobs to 4 million people.

"6,000 Men and a Scenic Boulevard"; San Francisco, California, ca. 1934.

The CWA's workers laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or improved 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports (not to mention 250,000 outhouses still badly needed in rural America).[1] The program was praised by Alf Landon, who later ran against Roosevelt in the 1936 election.[1]

Representative of the work are one county's accomplishments in less than five months, from November 1933 to March 1934. Grand Forks County, North Dakota put 2,392 unemployed workers on its payroll at a cost of about $250,000. When the CWA began in eastern North Dakota, it could hire only 480 workers out of 1,500 who registered for jobs. Projects undertaken included work on city utility systems, public buildings, parks, and roads. Rural areas profited, with most labor being directed to roads and community schools. CWA officials gave preference to veterans with dependents, but considerable political favoritism determined which North Dakotans got jobs.[2]


The Federal Art Project (FAP) was created in August 1935 as one of several cultural programs within the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the New Deal. Other agencies were established simultaneously to support American theater, writing, and music. The FAP, under the direction of Holger Cahill from its inception until its closing in 1943, marked an important symbolic change in federal governmental subvention for the visual arts. Before its creation, state art patronage had been funded entirely by the U. S. Treasury and had been governed by the principle of commissioning great art that celebrated the United States and its history since the American Revolution. Murals were commissioned and painted in federal buildings such as courts, customs houses, and post offices. Works of the highest quality, based on European history-painting conventions and values, were placed in all the federal buildings in Washington, D.C., essentially as propagandistic adornments. In contrast, the purpose of the FAP, as part of the WPA, was not to commission the best artists to celebrate the nation-state, but to provide work relief for the thousands of painters, sculptors, and graphic designers who had been thrown out of work by the Depression in the early 1930s.

Holger Cahill, who had been a museum director and specialist in American crafts history before leading the FAP, had a utopian sense of the possible future of his organization and its role in creating a cultural democracy in the United States. Although this vision chimed with the idealism of some radical (left-wing) New Dealers in government, the actual history of the FAP demonstrates the pragmatism of New Deal agencies and the contingent turns and twists in Roosevelt's statecraft during the 1930s.

The FAP operated a number of programs that utilized artists and artworks in different and sometimes contradictory ways. Cahill had overall control but considerable power was held by the managers of specific sections that dealt with recruitment of artists, organization of their work patterns, and determination of their art tasks. The FAP operated nationally, in every state, and was fairly decentralized in management. The majority of artists, however, were based in New York City, and it was their work that attracted the most attention, both from the mass media and from other parts of government disturbed by the leftist profile the arts program began to develop by 1936.

The FAP Easel Division paid artists to paint and sculpt in return for a weekly wage. This employment of artists as wage laborers in some ways was the most radical aspect of the program because it ostensibly treated painters and sculptors as no different from any other kind of worker in American society. Controversies recurred over how and whom to select for the program, and how to assess their work alongside all the other forms of manual labor supported by New Deal agencies. Many well-known artists found work on this scheme in New York, including Stuart Davis and Willem de Kooning. Unfortunately, many of the thousands of paintings and sculptures produced were destroyed either directly by the government (who retained control of them) on a variety of grounds—some local officials had reasoned, for instance, that the art works were created only for the duration of the Federal Art Project and therefore should be destroyed when the project ended—or inadvertently, through its lack of care in their storage or maintenance in situ.

The FAP also operated a mural division that commissioned artists to design and install large-scale paintings in a range of federal buildings, including hospitals, prisons, and airports. Some of these artists who produced work as part of this scheme became well known in the 1950s as abstract expressionists, including Arshile Gorky, who painted a mural called Aviation: Evolution of Forms under Aerodynamic Limitations (1936) at Newark Airport, and Philip Guston, who worked on a mural called Maintaining America's Skills (1939–1940) at the New York World's Fair WPA pavilion. Many hundreds of murals were placed in buildings across the country in a process that involved the local representatives of prospective host institutions. Relatively few cases of dissatisfaction are recorded. FAP art, on the whole, was subject to relatively few charges of propaganda.

By the late 1930s, however, anticommunist forces in government and in the press attacked the FAP as a left-wing organization, saw that its funding was reduced or suspended, and attempted to intimidate its administrators, who, for the most part, continued to believe that the program was an instrument for radical social change in the country. By that time, however, the radicalism of the New Deal had evaporated, a casualty of the decline in popular support for peacetime Roosevelt, the reemergence of a conservative coalition in Congress, and the end of already heavily strained alliances between the administration and antifascist organizations in the United States.

By the end of 1943 the FAP had been wrapped up, reorganized, and renamed, shorn entirely of the idealism and populism that had motivated its leaders and many of its artists for nearly eight years. Artists who had painted easel pictures, or murals in federal buildings, or organized art education in the FAP's community art center scheme, or contributed drawings to its Index of American Design, had either been sacked or set to work for the military, producing camouflage patterns or illustrations for guide-books for U. S. soldiers about to invade the country's enemies. Only about $35 million was ever spent on FAP activities—less than one percent of federal works funding in the New Deal. In symbolic terms, however, as an intervention into the nation's culture motivated by a history of democratic idealism that long preceded Roosevelt's presidency, the FAP was important, and it continues to figure in debates about the role of artists and the place of art in contemporary American society.

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