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American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the…
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American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to…

by Nick Taylor

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Before I read this book, I was only minimally aware of the Works Progress Administration, FDR’s jobs program during the Great Depression. Most genealogists who make their way to a county courthouse to find vital records or land documents benefit from the indexes created by WPA workers during the mid 1930s. And I had read of the “Voodoo Macbeth” directed by a very young Orson Welles as part of the WPA’s theater project.

American-Made is a very readable account of the WPA’s history. Author Nick Taylor spent eight years on researching and writing the book and it shows. But it isn’t dull at all – and I seemed to fly through the 530 pages. Interspersed with the politics (and we think today’s Congress is contentious!) are the stories of real people who got jobs through the WPA. I particularly liked the chapter about Kentucky’s “packhorse” librarians, who schlepped books to people who lived in rural and isolated areas of the state. I just had no idea of the range of jobs the WPA provided.

I also thought it was interesting that WPA-subsidized art pieces (owned by the federal government, but often in the hands of private collectors or galleries) are even today being reclaimed by the government to be hung, as intended, in public buildings.

FDR broke new ground when he decided that citizens deserved help from their government – something the Republicans thought would weaken the moral fiber of the nation. Rather than sit idly by as Herbert Hoover had and let things go to hell in a handcart, FDR acted to benefit real people. He was vilified by the do-nothings. (Does that ring a bell?)

7/31/2010 ( )
1 vote NewsieQ | Jul 31, 2010 |
This exhaustive (but not exhausting) history of the Works Progress Administration demonstrates the incredible scope of a remarkable program that provided a dignified lifeline to millions of desperate Americans during the Great Depression. Author (and W.C.U. alumnus), Nick Taylor also shows how the WPA gave the nation a great but under-appreciated return on investment. The book contains many fascinating biographical sketches ranging from the influential head of the WPA, Harry Hopkins to _ Mills of Jackson County who was one of the workers involved in local projects. [Chris Wilcox CITY LIGHTS BOOKSTORE 9/09]
  wilpotts | Sep 29, 2009 |
Covers the years leading up to the Depression, especially economic policy of Hoover, through the early New Deal programs of FDR into the actual WPA and ending with the Program’s demise amidst the second World War. Chapters shift between national politics, specific programs in the WPA, and individuals lives before, during, and after WPA involvement. Mild profanity (SOB, goddamn), mention of venereal disease.
  chosler | Jan 14, 2009 |
This is a highly interesting and extremely well written popular history of a key element of FDR's New Deal - The Works Progress Administration. With the WPA and an alphabet soup of other government agencies FDR redefined the role of government as the servant of the people ready to help the downtrodden and unemployed and restore hope in a time of great calamity. ( )
  ALinNY458 | Jul 30, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553802356, Hardcover)

If you’ve traveled the nation’s highways, flown into New York’s LaGuardia Airport, strolled San Antonio’s River Walk, or seen the Pacific Ocean from the Beach Chalet in San Francisco, you have experienced some part of the legacy of the Works Progress Administration (WPA)—one of the enduring cornerstones of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

When President Roosevelt took the oath of office in March 1933, he was facing a devastated nation. Four years into the Great Depression, a staggering 13 million American workers were jobless and many millions more of their family members were equally in need. Desperation ruled the land.

What people wanted were jobs, not handouts: the pride of earning a paycheck; and in 1935, after a variety of temporary relief measures, a permanent nationwide jobs program was created. This was the Works Progress Administration, and it would forever change the physical landscape and the social policies of the United States.

The WPA lasted for eight years, spent $11 billion, employed 8½ million men and women, and gave the country not only a renewed spirit but a fresh face. Under its colorful head, Harry Hopkins, the agency’s remarkable accomplishment was to combine the urgency of putting people back to work with its vision of physically rebuilding America. Its workers laid roads, erected dams, bridges, tunnels, and airports. They stocked rivers, made toys, sewed clothes, served millions of hot school lunches. When disasters struck, they were there by the thousands to rescue the stranded. And all across the country the WPA’s arts programs performed concerts, staged plays, painted murals, delighted children with circuses, created invaluable guidebooks. Even today, more than sixty years after the WPA ceased to exist, there is almost no area in America that does not bear some visible mark of its presence.

Politically controversial, the WPA was staffed by passionate believers and hated by conservatives; its critics called its projects make-work and wags said it stood for We Piddle Around. The contrary was true. We have only to look about us today to discover its lasting presence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When President Roosevelt took the oath of office in 1933, he was facing a devastated nation. Four years into the Great Depression, 13 million American workers were jobless. What people wanted were jobs, not handouts, and in 1935, after a variety of temporary relief measures, a permanent nationwide jobs program was created--the Works Progress Administration, which would forever change the physical landscape and the social policies of the United States. The WPA lasted for eight years, spent $11 billion, and employed 8 and a half million men and women. The agency combined the urgency of putting people back to work with a vision of physically rebuilding America. Its workers laid roads, erected dams, bridges, tunnels, and airports, but also performed concerts, staged plays, and painted murals. Sixty years later, there is almost no area in America that does not bear some visible mark of its presence.--From publisher description.… (more)

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