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WPA Archives - Vintage Brochure - Workers and Accomplishments -1939


  • How long had WPA workers been employed at their trades in private industry?
    Ten years on the average.
  • How old are WPA workers?
    A survey in November 1937 showed these percentages :
    1. 9 percent under 25 years old
    2. 23 percent between 25 and 34 years old
    3. 25 percent between 35 and 44 years old
    4. 24 percent between 45 and 54 years old
    5. 16 percent between 55 and 64 years old
    6. 3 percent 65 years of age or over

The WPA limits its employment almost entirely to the heads of families. Many needy younger workers are assisted by the NYA or the CCC rather than the WPA.

  • Are the same people employed continuously on WPA projects?
    Less than one-sixth of the 5,000,000 different per-sons who worked on WPA projects during the first 2 years of the program's operation were continuously employed by the WPA. Thousands of workers leave WPA projects for private employment every week; and at the same time other workers come on WPA projects who have lost their jobs in private industry and who are in need.

    Even when unemployment is increasing for the Nation as a whole, some workers are able to find private jobs and leave WPA projects. However, when unemployment is increasing, the number who have to apply for WPA assistance is greater than the number leaving the projects. The opposite is the case when private employment is on the increase.
  • Do WPA workers refuse jobs in private industry in order to stay on the WPA pay rolls?
    Of the thousands of complaints that have been investigated, less than one-tenth of 1 percent have been found valid.


(The next three answers give only a partial account of WPA accomplishments. A complete inventory will be sent on request.

  • What has the WPA accomplished in the way of public improvements?
    During the 3-year period ending July 1, 1938, the WPA's record of physical accomplishments includes :
    1. Public buildings.—17,562 new ones constructed, with improvements on 46,318 and additions to 1,663. These include schools and libraries, administrative and recreational buildings, hospitals and institutional buildings, fire houses and armories.
    2. Roads.—279,804 miles of highways, roads, and streets newly built or improved. Most of this work was done on farm-to-market and other secondary roads.
    3. Other road work.—Thousands of miles of culverts, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and paths built and repaired. Also 22,247 miles of new roadside drainage ditches, with 44,255 miles cleared or deepened.
    4. Bridges.—29,084 new ones and 23,521 improved.
    5. Aviation facilities.-357 airports and landing fields built or modernized; over 2,000,000 linear feet of landing runways built or improved.
    6. Recreational areas and facilities .—More than 15,000 parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields built or improved, as well as 11,600 swimming and wading pools, golf courses, tennis, handball and horseshoe courts, skating rinks, ski jumps and trails, outdoor theatres and bandshells.
    7. Water systems.—6,086 miles of new water mains, aqueducts or distribution lines, with 2,204 miles renovated. Water connections totaling 349,000 were made or repaired.
    8. Dams.—4,091 new storage dams, with 469 improved; 26,663 other new dams for erosion control and general conservation, with 365 of this type improved.
    9. Sanitation.—8,855 miles of storm and sanitary sewers built, and 2,600 improved. Also 544 sewage-treatment plants, 1,159,000 sanitary toilets, and 5,639 septic tanks. Sewer connections totaling 250,000 were made or repaired.
    10. Ground improvements.—Nearly 42,000 acres of public grounds, other than parks, landscaped; nearly 18,500 miles of fence built or repaired.
  • What has the WPA done in the fields of education, the arts, and public recreation service?
    During the 3 years ending July 1, 1938:
    1. Educational workers conducted more than 100,000 classes a month, attended by about 1,145,-000 people. They have taught 1,200,000 people to read and write, assisted in the naturalization of aliens by providing education in the fundamentals of American citizenship, and furnished vocational education for unemployed men and women.
    2. Library workers established more than 3,500 new branch libraries, more than 1,100 new traveling libraries, more than 4,500 reading rooms in existing libraries; cataloged 27,553,0001 library books; renovated 56,191,000 books, most of them for schools and libraries.
    3. Recreational workers operated more than 14,700 community centers and assisted more than 7,800 others; supervised recreational activities, mostly physical, totaling more than 16,320,000 participant hours in an average week.
    4. The Federal Art Project conducted art classes with an average monthly attendance of about 60,000; operated civic art centers with aggregate attendance of 4,000,000; produced more than 234,000 art objects, including 96,602 drawings, easel paintings, murals, and sculptured works.
    5. The Federal Music Project conducted music classes with an average monthly attendance (January to June 1938, inclusive) of 530,000 and gave an average of 4,400 musical performances per month with an average monthly attendance of over 3,000,000.
    6. The Federal Theatre produced 1,813 plays, with an average (January to June 1938, inclusive) of 1,077 performances a month with average monthly attendance of 476,000.
    7. The Federal Writers' Project, chiefly occupied in producing a series of guidebooks to the various States and localities of America, completed 293 books and pamphlets, of which 3,550,000 copies have been sold or otherwise distributed.
    8. The Historic American Building Survey made measurements of 2,302 famous structures, 16,244 drawings, and 17,480 photographs, which will be preserved for future generations.
    9. The Historic Records Survey preserved thousands of valuable records from neglect, decay, and destruction.
    10. Hundreds of research projects assisted various kinds of public work, ranging from traffic regulation to scientific experiment.
  • What other public services have WPA workers performed?
    During the 3-year period ending July 1, 1938:
    1. Women on sewing projects made 181,209,000 garments and household articles for distribution through local public relief agencies to needy families and public institutions.
    2. Workers on canning and preserving projects prepared 48,061,000 pounds of food for distribution to needy families through local public relief agencies.
    3. Workers on school lunch projects served 238,-330,000 meals to undernourished children.
    4. More than 15,000,000 needy adults and children were helped through medical, dental, and nursing services.
    5. Housekeeping aides made over 7,000,000 visits in order to help out needy families.
    6. WPA workers conducted 1,551 nursery school units attended by nearly 44,000 children from needy families (up to November 1, 1938).
  • Has an independent appraisal of WPA work been made?
    Yes. Ten national organizations cooperated in making an independent appraisal of WPA work. * In reply to a questionnaire sent out by these organizations, the officials of counties, cities, and towns in 42 States made some 8,000 reports appraising the Works Program in their communities. The reports were studied and summarized by impartial State committees of leading citizens. They expressed pride in the accomplishments of local WPA workers, and they declared that the WPA had been of immeasurable aid both to the communities and to the workers. Without exception, the summarizing reports of the State committees favor work relief over a dole.

    Another special study was made, in several large cities, of the comparative efficiency of skilled building trades workers on WPA projects. This study, made by trade union representatives with the cooperation of the local WPA authorities, showed that over 90 percent of these skilled WPA workers performed adequate work in terms of the normal requirements of their crafts in private industry.

    * The cooperating organizations were the American Engineering Council, the American Institute of Architects, the American Municipal Association, the American Public Welfare Association, the American Society of Planning Officials, the National Aeronautic Association, the National Educational Association (Department of Adult Education), the National Recreation Association, the United States Bureau of Public Roads, and the United States Conference of Mayors.
  • What do local officials think of the WPA?
    The United States Conference of Mayors, an organization composed of the mayors of 100 leading cities with a total population of some 25,000,000, has gone on record as follows :

    "The integrity and permanent usefulness of the city projects which have been approved by the Federal Government need no apology from any-one. These are the cities ' own projects. Honest and impartial analysis . . . will reveal that practically every project represents a useful, and in most cases a permanent, public improvement.

    "Finally; it is apparent that the city officials of America will never consent to abandonment of the work principle in giving relief assistance. The dole, based upon idleness and groceries, has no place in our American scheme of society."


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