Records of the Works Progress Administration (NARA) – http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/069.html
Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:
- What did construction projects look like in the 1930s?
- How were skilled jobless put to work under the WPA?
- What was traffic like in 1930s America?
From 1935 through 1943, there was a federal agency that:
Provided jobs to unemployed workers on public projects sponsored by federal, state, or local agencies; and on defense and war-related projects; and to unemployed youth through National Youth Administration (NYA) projects.
The agency went through several names but was best known as the WPA – Works Progress Administration or Works Projects Administration.
In the course of employing Americans from all walks of life in projects from building dams to interviewing former slaves, the WPA created 7.3 million cubic feet of material encompassing more than 159,000 individual items. The material includes information on major disasters that took place in the 1930s. The bulk of this material is not available online and is only available at the National Archives facility in College Park Maryland.
This website is a very rough finding aid to this material. It is organized mostly by sub agency but also by field office. There is a tiny sliver of material available electronically by clicking on “Search OPA for entries from this record group.” This will bring up the 562 digital objects available for this record group, including 29 films and 531 photographs.
Some of the films of interest to writers include:
- A Better Chicago – nine minute movie about WPA projects in Chicago that includes people hired to reconstruct Animal skeletons in the Field Museum, along with views of Chicago streets and how accidents are handled.
- Danger on the Streets, 1936? – Eight minute silent film about traffic problems and accidents. Places substantial blame on pedestrians. Shows city response to an auto accident.
- Uncle Sam, The Greatest Builder, 1937? – Nine minute sound movie about Dams built in the 1930s.
The OPA (Online Public Access) catalog will also provide basic information on other materials from this record group that may help you plan your visit to College Park Maryland.