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Manuscript Group 400
[ca. 1766-1909]
5 cubic feet

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created by President Roosevelt in 1935 as a New Deal program to provide direct federal relief during the depression. This was a federally structured program, organized hierarchically by state, region, county, and finally, project-foremen. The WPA was a significant program which served to bind the region to the nation and that spent more than $10.5 billion between 1935-1943, employing over eight million people. The intent of the WPA was to provide work relief for the able-bodied unemployed. The WPA operated so that it covered the labor costs while a sponsor paid for the cost of material. The sponsors were usually state and federal agencies, counties, cities, boroughs, and towns. Some of the larger projects that were sponsored included large street and highway projects, construction of sidewalks and paved streets, as well as the development of storm sewers. Other less costly projects were also sponsored: abandoned mines were sealed; textbooks were cleaned and rebound; employees copied and catalogued ordinances for towns; buildings were remodeled; women operated sewing machines and produced clothing and blankets for the needy; murals were painted on business walls; and some groups presented dramas and musicals.

In the 1930's and 1940's the Historic Commission of Pennsylvania oversaw several WPA projects in Pennsylvania, including the Federal Writers Project and the Museum Extension Project. The Federal Writers Project, 1935-1943, was designed to employ white collar workers dehibilitated by the Great Depression. One project they worked on was the publication of comprehensive guides for each state (refer to RG-13 and also transcripts of official documents). Project workers in Pennsylvania published Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State, 1940, and Philadelphia: A Guide to the Nation's Birthplace, 1937, and many guides on individual counties and historical subjects.

The records include products of the Pennsylvania Writers Project Material, such as materials copied from various counties, namely:

  • Quarter Session Docket Transcripts
  • Commissioners Minute Transcripts
  • Tax Assessment Record Transcripts
  • Road Book Transcripts
  • Newspaper Transcripts
  • Transcript of Travels Through the United States, 1795-1797 by Duke de la Rochefoucault-Liancourt

    Also included are files from the Museum Extension Project [ca. 1938], including color plates of costumes through the ages, especially relating to Pennsylvania, often used for illustrating classic books and fairy tales, and handbooks providing textual material regarding magic shows, puppet and marionette theaters, description of costumes, and a history of coal .

    For related records please consult Record Group 13, the Records of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. This record group contains working files of the WPA's Pennsylvania Historical Survey, consisting of administrative files, transcripts, photographs, inventories, notes and other working papers relating to various projects.


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