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WPA Archives - Vintage Brochure - Work Pays America - 1937

1937 WPA Brochure - Work Pays America

Front Page of the Works Pays America Brochure produced by the Works Progress Administration in 1937.

THE FEDERAL WORKS PROGRAM, which took millions of needy unemployed men and women from the destructive idleness of the relief rolls and put them to work at useful public tasks, has been in operation nearly 2 years.

Millions of Americans who never felt the pinch of unemployment are now using roads and streets, parks and airports, stadiums and swimming pools, water and sewer systems, hospitals and libraries and schools which would not exist today except for this program.

Each of these civic improvements represents an increase in our national wealth, and in the day-to-day pleasure or comfort of many people. They represent savings in local taxes .

This brief report summarizes the vast and varied accomplishments of those jobless and needy workers who, but for this program, would have created nothing.


Washington D.C.

HARRY HOPKINS Administrator


Airports built by W.P.A. workers have faciltated the expansion of air transportation

Airports built by W.P.A. workers have faciltated the expansion of air transportation

When people are to be employed by the million, their range of work-ability or work-experience covers hundreds of occupations. It is desirable to employ each at the task he does best, or at the task most likely to enable him to hold a private job whenever he can return to one. Here's how these occupational groups have been employed (in thousands of communities) by the WPA:

Construction work employs laborers, engineers, architects, draftsmen, mechanics, truck drivers, machine operators, building trades workers, etc. Four-fifths of all WPA workers can perform some phase of construction work, and by far the largest single group of these is unskilled labor. Road and conservation work provides such jobs in rural areas.

WPA construction workers have built, repaired, renovated, extended, or modernized -- enough farm-to-market roads to reach five times around the earth, including:

Motorists on Highways Built by the WPA

Motorists now speed along safe, new, and improved highways made possible by the Works Program.

  • 21,000 bridges
  • 8,300 schools
  • 5,000 other public buildings
  • 1,000 hospitals or institutions
  • 252 airports
  • 4,500 miles of sewers
  • 1,200 disposal plants
  • 2,300 miles of water mains
  • 1,500 parks
  • 3,000 athletic fields
  • 395 swimming pools and golf courses
  • 4,000 tennis courts and many other facilities.

They have planted 4,700,000 trees, drained 528,000 acres of malaria swamps, stocked 23,000,000 fish and 28,000 game animals and fowl, built or renovated 2,300 miles of stream beds, 375 miles of levees, 650 miles of river banks.

Many other workers are trained in the clerical, professional, and technical fields, or in the arts, or (such as young people of the depression era) lacking in skill or experience. How are they being used?

Stadium built by the WPA

Parks, Playgrounds, stadiums, and swimming pools built by W.P.A. have brought happy hours to millions of recreation-starved adults and children.

A Park built by W.P.A. Workers

Doctors, nurses, and dentists have provided 9,100,000 visits, examinations, or treatments to people unable to pay for them. Qualified workers have inoculated many thousands of children against contagions, campaigned against infantile paralysis and trachoma, promoted rural sanitation, aided the blind and the handicapped. Such projects are sponsored and supervised by State and local public health authorities.

Modern Schools and public buildins have been created by W.P.A. workers

Modern Schools and public buildins have been created by W.P.A. workers in every part of the country. Thousands of communities have benefited from these new and remodeled structures.

Librarians and clerks run 2,000 "traveling libraries" in remote areas, have repaired 11,000,000 books for schools and libraries. Teachers in adult classes have reduced illiteracy in America 16 percent.

Sewing Projects of the WPA

Jobless women, employed on sewing projects, make garments for families on relief.

Women of the WPA have produced 60,000,000 articles of clothing, bedding, etc., for those in need or for public institutions. They have prepared and served 80,000,000 hot school lunches for hungry children.

WPA artists have produced 1,100 mural paintings for public buildings, musicians have played to aggregate audiences of 71,000,000, theater people have launched a renaissance in flesh-andblood drama, writers are preparing guidebooks to the whole nation.

All over America WPA clerical and professional people are giving long-needed public service: They are checking traffic to save lives and guide paving programs. They are revising tax records to spot evaders.

Amphitheaters and band shells built by the WPA

Amphitheaters and band shells are making music and the theater available to millions of persons formerly unable to enjoy such entertainment.

The multitude of small unpaid Federal taxes uncovered thus far total up to the impressive sum of $25,000,000. One State mineral-resource survey discovered a $350,000,000 deposit of Glauber's salt.

A check of the New York City water system corralled $209,000 a year in new revenue. Hundreds of surveys are developing knowledge that will result in human savings, or actual dollars-and-cents economies for the future. And the bulk of the work is being done by people who can find no other work to do.


The Nation never had enough roads and streets, schools, parks, airports, sewer, and water systems. It never had enough conservation work to protect natural resources. It never had enough libraries or books, health services or educational opportunities. A host of Americans do not have adequate food or clothing.

WPA Bridge and Roadway Project

A new bridge and roadway will solve a traffic problem.

During the depression, local communities had less and less money with which to build, expand, or repair public facilities and services, yet the population (and therefore the need) grew steadily.

WPA Dental and Eye Clinics

Dental and eye clinics, visiting nurses and other health services by W.P.A. workers are resulting in a healthier Nation.

Millions of people needed work who could help meet these shortages. They included doctors and nurses, mechanics, clerks, teachers, building trades workers, scientists, dietitians, housewives, unskilled laborers, and workers in hundreds of other occupations. Their training and energy were unused because they could not find jobs.

The Federal Government appealed to local officials everywhere to plan and put forward essential civic improvements and services which could employ their own local unemployed who were certified by local agencies as in need.

Local officials rallied to this appeal, carefully planning widely varied, useful projects in their communities to meet the wide variety of skill and experience among the unemployed. The WPA paid the wages of the workers, local money paid most of the cost of materials.

Rehabilitation through vocational training

Rehabilitation through vocational training has given thousands of handicapped persona an opportunity to become independent and useful.

The result was essentially a localized program. Each community got what its officials wanted and requested. The local money they contributed (averaging 16 percent of all project costs) was evidence of the usefulness of the projects. About 85 cents out of every Federal dollar went directly into pay envelopes to be spent quickly by security workers in the channels of local business.

Literally thousands of local officials, of many political faiths, have praised the workmanship on these projects. Hundreds of thousands of WPA workers have returned to private industry, able to hold their old jobs because the Works Program kept them from going rusty and losing hope. More are returning daily, as rapidly as new jobs are available. The WPA has helped many business men to remain in business, owing to the great amount of materials used on these new projects.


The Works Progress Administration, though the largest, is only one of numerous agencies employing needy workers from relief rolls under the Federal Works Program.

Never too Old to Learn

Never too old to learn via the WPA

  • The Civilian Conservation Corps has conserved natural resources by reforestation, prevention of forest fires and soil erosion, protection of wild life and widespread improvement of national parks and forests.
  • The National Youth Administration has provided jobs and the opportunity to continue in school and college for more than one-half million young people through employment on part-time work projects.
  • The Bureau of Public Roads, on projects operated by Works Program funds, has been instrumental in building almost 10,000 miles of highways and in eliminating over 1,000 dangerous grade crossings.
  • The Farm Security Administration is primarily concerned with operation of a broad program of rehabilitation loans and grants to destitute farmers.
  • The Public Works Administration, designed to stimulate heavy industry by constructing large public works oh a grant basis under private contract, by the end of 1936 had built 1,400 public buildings, more than 200 sewers, almost 400 waterworks, and 41 large low-lost housing projects. In February 1937, PWA projects employed more than 101,000 persons.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation, with Works Program funds, is developing 23 irrigation projects, of which the largest is Grand Coulee Dam. The Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine is greatly advancing its fight against plant diseases and insect pests. The Corps of Engineers is improving inland waterways and advancing facilities for flood control. The Forest Service has expanded its regular program.
Modern WPA Sewer Project

Modern sewers are replacing inadequate sanitary equipment in many cities.

Many other permanent bureaus of Government have taken advantage of the manpower provided by this program to advance their long-time national plans.

For example, the United States Public Health Service has this to say about one type of work:

"WPA malaria control activities in the South touch the lives of 15,000,000 people. Their ultimate value will many times exceed the total of all relief expenditures in that area. It is not too much to say that the progress of malaria control has been advanced 30 years beyond the point it would have been without the WPA program."



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