Work Projects Administration

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Work Projects Administration

(WPA), former U.S. government agency, established in 1935 by executive order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the Works Progress Administration; it was renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939, when it was made part of the Federal Works Agency. Created when unemployment was widespread, the WPA—headed by Harry L. Hopkins until 1938—was designed to increase the purchasing power of persons on relief by employing them on useful projects. WPA's building program included the construction of 116,000 buildings, 78,000 bridges, and 651,000 mi (1,047,000 km) of road and the improvement of 800 airports. Also a part of WPA's diversified activities were the Federal Art Project, the Federal Writers' Project, and the Federal Theatre Project. Close to 10,000 drawings, paintings, and sculptured works were produced through WPA, and many public buildings (especially post offices) were decorated with murals. The experiments in theatrical productions were highly praised and introduced many fresh ideas. Musical performances under the project averaged 4,000 a month. The most notable product of writers in WPA was a valuable series of state and regional guidebooks. WPA also conducted an education program and supervised the activities of the National Youth AdministrationNational Youth Administration
(NYA), former U.S. government agency established in 1935 within the Works Progress Administration; it was transferred in 1939 to the Federal Security Agency and was placed in 1942 under the War Manpower Commission.
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. At its peak WPA had about 3.5 million persons on its payrolls. Altogether WPA employed a total of 8.5 million persons, and total federal appropriations for the program amounted to almost $11 billion. There was sharp criticism of the WPA in a Senate committee report in 1939; the same year the WPA appropriation was cut, several projects were abolished, and others were curtailed. A strike of thousands of WPA workers to prevent a cut in wages on building projects was unsuccessful. Steadily increasing employment in the private sector, much speeded just before and during World War II, caused further drastic cuts in WPA appropriations and payrolls. In June, 1943, the agency officially went out of existence.


See D. S. Howard, WPA and Federal Relief Policy (1943).

References in periodicals archive ?
Moore, Work Projects Administration, 12 September 1939, Helen Chandler Ryan Collection, MSS 721, box 1, folder 5.
She was an early beneficiary of the Work Projects Administration, which provided needy artists with canvases and allowed them to paint at home.
Not only did he have the writing projects, but also he tried - largely successfully - to keep a full-time job as either a teacher or a librarian, with interim work on the Illinois Writers' Project, a Work Projects Administration initiative to employ writers during the Depression years.
The Work Projects Administration brought in thousands of people and built our park.
Bell and constructed as part of the Work Projects Administration of President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, was voted Los Angeles County course of the year three times in the 1990s.