America Fights the Depression CWA 1933-34

The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was one of the New Deal's earliest work relief programs, predating the WPA by about two years, initiated in the first year of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term. It put 4,040,000 unemployed people to work on more than 200,000 projects between November 9, 1933, and March 31, 1934 — a period of just 4½ months. The 9"×12" 160-page hardcover book America Fights the Depression: A Photographic Record of the Civil Works Administration by Henry G. Alsberg, Coward-McCann, New York (1934), presents a sampling of the kinds of work that was done, but in most cases without identifying specific projects. Most of the pictures show CWA workers digging, building things, fixing things, painting things, and so on. The one exception is the art section, that shows specific works of art and identifies the artists. The art pages are reproduced here. The other notable feature of the book is a ringing endorsement of the concepts behind the New Deal by Harry Hopkins, who was in charge of FDR's most significant work-relief agencies: FERA, CWA, and finally the WPA. You can read the introduction just below these pictures:
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Introduction to America Fights the Depression

Will we ever again hear words such as these issuing forth from the very highest levels of the United States government?
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT'S executive order creating the Civil Works Administration was in effect a declaration of war on the depression, a call to four million unemployed Americans to take up their picks and shovels and dig themselves out of the depression. The response to his call was immediate and impressive. Within six weeks more than the four million called for had enlisted. The fight opened immediately on all sectors, in every state, territory and island possession. Although this time the struggle was for peaceful ends, the methods and weapons employed were not so different from those used in real warfare. No ploughshares had to be hammered into swords. The tractors that formerly would have been used to drag cannon, now pulled road-making machinery, gouged out trenches, yanked out stumps, ditched malaria-ridden swamps, charges of dynamite blew down whole hill-sides, to widen dangerous curves on highways; sites being cleared for playgrounds at times resembled Flanders battlefields flung skywards by exploding lyddite. Hundreds of miles of trenches were opened, but now it was for the installation of water mains and sewer conduits. Useless uninhabitable buildings were demolished; unsanitary schools were pulled down and replaced with modern structures. Hospitals were built. Unemployed nurses were given jobs visiting the needy sick, caring for children. The fight was carried on into the city slums and the forgotten mountain regions in the southern states, with jobs for the jobless and medical care, education and recreation for the underprivileged. As in war, every form of technical skill was enlisted. Unemployed architects, engineers, scientists, teachers, nurses, surveyors, masons, carpenters, mechanics, as well as unskilled labor found a place in the ranks. The first campaign of this war against depression ended with the end of the Civil Works program on March 31st, a campaign lasting less than four and one-half months. The results achieved have been the reverse of those usually brought about by old-style wars. There has been construction, not destruction. Hardly a community but can show some lasting benefit derived from Civil Works activities, a street paved, a school-house reconditioned, a nursery school installed, a new playground. But the most important thing that was done, after all, was to give four million jobless men and women of these communities jobs on useful work.


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Created by Photogallery 3.09 April 26, 2021