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Works Progress Administration

One of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" projects, the purpose of the WPA was to operate a nationwide program of "small useful projects" designed to provide employment for needy employable workers.

WPA poster

The WPA came into existence on May 6, 1935, upon the signing of an executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt. Projects undertaken by the WPA included highway and building construction, slum clearance, reforestation, and rural rehabilitation. Special programs funded under the auspices of WPA included: the Federal Writers' Project, which prepared state and regional guide books, organized archives, indexed newspapers, and conducted sociological and historical investigations; the Federal Arts Project, which gave unemployed artists the opportunity to decorate post offices, schools, and other public buildings with murals, canvases, and sculptures, and allowed musicians to organize symphony orchestras and community singing; and the Federal Theatre Project, which experimented with untried modes, and allowed scores of stock companies to tour the country.

By the time the program was terminated on June 30, 1943, the WPA had employed more than 8,500,000 persons on some 1,410,000 different projects, at an average salary of $41.57 a month. Over the course of its existence, the WPA was responsible for building 651,087 miles of highways, roads and streets; and had constructed, repaired, or improved 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, 8,192 parks, and 853 airport landing fields. The Federal Arts Project funded 2,566 murals, and 17,744 pieces of sculpture.

The American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl
The Works Projects Administration in Indiana

President Franklin Roosevelt

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This page was last updated on June 30, 2018.