Established on 6 May
1935, the goal of the Works Progress Administration was to relieve unemployment
through the creation of jobs. It succeeded FERA and the CWA, both created
in 1933. In July of 1939 it was renamed the Works Project Administration
and placed under the Federal Works Agency (FWA). Although officially
abolished on 30 June 1943, the Division for Liquidation of the Work Projects
Administration was set up in the Federal Works Agency allowing programs to wind
down by 30 June 1944.
In the nine years it
was in place the WPA employed over 8.5 million workers in construction, the
arts and more. The goal was to make sure there was at least one wage
earner in every family. WPA workers were paid the prevailing wage for the area
where they lived, but they could not be paid for over 30 hours in a week.
For the most part the jobs were intended to be temporary and there was little
attention to teaching skills for permanent job placement.
The result was buildings, bridges, dams and other structural
projects were funded in communities in every state. Artistic endeavors
were encouraged. It is hard to find a community that does not have a
striking example. In San Francisco the Beach
Chalet has wonderful
murals painted by Lucien Adolphe Labaudt and the Botanical Gardens were planted
with WPA funds. In Inglewood the “History of Transportation” a massive mosaic by Helen Lundeberg,
most likely the largest New Deal art work commissioned has been restored. In
Fresno the Memorial Auditorium is a prime example of New Deal
architecture. Details of other California WPA projects can be found on
the website of University of California – Berkeley’s The
Living New Deal.
The WPA was run at four levels federal, regional, state
administrations and district offices. Most federal records, including
those of special projects and field offices are held in Washington D.C.
Many have been microfilmed including over 10000 rolls of field office records,
634 for California. Those records include correspondence, administrative
files, project folders, sponsors’ reports organizational and functional charts,
accomplishment reports, as well as other records, covering the years 1935-1943.