The Works Progress Administration, known by the acronym WPA, was one of the many programs initiated by the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat the devestating effects of the Great Depression.
The Works Progress Administration was established by Executive Order No. 7034, dated May 6, 1935. This action was taken by the President under the authority of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, approved April 8, 1935.
The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act signaled the withdrawal of the federal government from the area of direct relief, which was left to the states and local communities, and provided for the establishment of a large-scale national works program for jobless employables, who were required to meet a means test in order to qualify for work relief. Established as the major agency of the program was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which beginning in 1939 was called the Works Projects Administration .
As originally designed, the WPA was to have two important functions. First, it was to operate a nation-wide program of "small useful projects" designed to provide employment for needy employable workers. Second, it was to coordinate the activities of the "Works Program." About 85% of the funds spent on WPA programs went directly into wages and salaries.
John K. Jennings was Indiana's WPA administrator during the late 1930's and early 1940's. In 1963, Jennings donated a collection of materials covering the period of 1924-1956 to Indiana University's Lilly Library. This on-line exhibition draws from these materials, and highlights some of the many projects undertaken by the WPA in Indiana during Jennings' tenure as state administrator. Included in this exhibit are written documents, photographs, and audio and film clips taken from the Jennings collection which show some of the many different roles the WPA played in Indiana during the late depression years.
(Sources: Encyclopedia of American History, 7th Ed., Jeffrey B. Morris and Richard B. Morris, eds., 1996. The Oxford Companion to American History, Thomas H. Johnson. 1966)
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