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Sunday, April 08, 2007

April 8, 1935: WPA Puts Millions, Your Mom, Back to Work -

April 8, 1935: WPA Puts Millions Back to Work -

1935: The Works Progress Administration, established by presidential executive order to help put people back to work during the Depression, takes effect with passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act.

The WPA, the largest component of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program, provided federal assistance designed to employ mainly blue-collar workers –- road-building, reforestation and construction projects employed millions of people -– but white-collar workers and artists were also well-served.

In fact, the WPA infused art into American culture in a way not seen before or since. WPA artists decorated schools, libraries and other public buildings with hundreds of murals, while WPA musicians organized symphony orchestras, and WPA actors staged performances in communities that had never before seen live theater. The Federal Writers’ Project put wordsmiths to work preparing regional guides, indexing newspapers and undertaking historical research projects.

Roosevelt’s detractors, who spoke of “New Dealers” and “socialists” in the same breath, liked to characterize the WPA as a politically corrupt pork barrel where legions of layabouts leaned on their shovels while getting paid for it. But the project not only got about 8.5 million people off the dole, it yielded tangible results. During an eight-year run, WPA workers built or repaired 124,000 bridges, 650,000 miles of highway, 125,000 public buildings, 8,000 parks and 850 airfields.

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