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New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources


"The New Deal" refers to a series of domestic programs (lasting roughly from 1933 to 1939) implemented during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat the effects of the Great Depression on the U.S. economy. In addition to certain key economic programs, several of the most prominent New Deal initiatives focused on providing work relief to unemployed workers from all segments of U.S. society--from unskilled laborers to highly skilled artists and technicians. The projects in which these workers were employed were as diverse as their backgrounds and extended from public works projects--the construction of roads, buildings, parks, tunnels bridges, to cultural documentation projects carried out by writers, artists, historians, actors, and musicians.

The Work Projects Administration (1935-43 - formerly Works Progress Administration 1935-39) was the coordinating agency for many of these diverse activities. According to the Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-1943, the WPA employed as many as 8.5 million individuals throughout its existence. The WPA was a large and complex organization, and its diverse programs often were coordinated at many different levels--by the Federal government and, to varying degrees, by state, regional, and local entities.

Four major cultural projects were initiated in the early years of the WPA; in 1935 these projects were known collectively as Federal One. These projects included the Federal Art Project (1935-43), the Federal Theatre Project (1935-1939), the Federal Music Project (1935-39, succeeded by the WPA Music Program, 1939-43) and the Federal Writers' Project (1935-39-with some activity continuing on state projects until 1943).

Other prominent New Deal programs included the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933-42), and the the Resettlement Administration (1935-36), succeeded by the Farm Security Administration (1937-43). Other central initiatives of Roosevelt's administration included the creation of the Social Security Act (1935), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) (1933), the National Labor Relations Board (1935), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) (1934), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) (1933--present).

The Library of Congress holds significant collections of materials produced by Work Projects Administration (WPA) cultural work relief programs and the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information, as well as publications produced by the WPA and other Federal agencies throughout the New Deal period, roughly 1933-39, and up through World War II. The collections contain photographs, posters, oral history transcripts, sound recordings, published and unpublished manuscript materials, plays, design drawings, inventories, and indexes. The Library also holds an extensive collection of secondary sources on the period.

The classic essay "Amassing American Stuff": the Library of Congress and the Federal Arts Projects of the 1930s by John Y. Cole, Executive Director of the Library's Center for the Book, provides a helpful overview of New Deal program materials in the Library of Congress's collections.

Please send any corrections, additions, suggestions, and comments to the Digital Reference Section.

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  July 30, 2010
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