Sunday, April 19, 2015

A New Deal for Indiana

(Robert Snyder of Fort Wayne, Indiana, has dinner with his wife and three children, in November of 1937 . Thanks to the WPA, Mr. Snyder was able to work, receive a paycheck, and support his family through the hard times of the Great Depression. Photo courtesy of National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

In recent years, Indiana's regressive taxation (i.e., forcing middle-class & low-income residents to pay higher tax rates than the rich) and low revenue have spurred budget cuts (or threats of budget cuts) for the state's libraries, K-12 schools, institutes for higher education, and more. Additionally, in 2013 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Indiana a "D+" letter grade for its infrastructure, noting that nearly 2,000 of its bridges are "structurally deficient"; 16% of its major roads "are in poor condition"; its system of parks is nearly half-a-billion dollars short of its needs; and the state only has five full-time employees to oversee about a 1,000 dams - a quarter of which are considered "high hazard."

With the assistance of a more helpful federal government, major investments were made in Indiana during the 1930s and 40s - investments which still help the state today. Consider these facts & figures for the Hoosier State...

Civil Works Administration (CWA):

In January of 1934, there were 104,000 Indianans working in the CWA, building or repairing schools, roads, bridges, and more.

(Source: "Analysis of Civil Works Program Statistics," 1939, p. 18)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA):

In February of 1935, 2,861 college students in Indiana were employed in FERA's College Student Aid Program. This was a program "undertaken in order to enable young persons who would not otherwise have been able to do so to continue their education, and thereby reduce the influx of young workers into the labor market" (recall that during the Great Depression there was a large drop in the demand for labor).

Between 1933 and 1935, FERA granted $52 million to Indiana for relief efforts (about $885 million in today's dollars). FERA funds typically went towards cash relief, rural relief projects, and a wide variety of work programs.

(Source: "Final Statistical Report of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration," 1942, pp. 64, 103, and 232)

(Nursery school furniture made in Indiana, with the assistance of FERA funds, 1935. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the New Deal Network.) 

Public Works Administration (PWA):

By 1939, the PWA had contributed $44 million in funding towards 477 infrastructure projects in Indiana (not including federal projects). In today's dollars, that's about $749 million.

(Source: "America Builds: The Record of PWA," 1939, p. 284)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC):

Between 1933 and 1942, about 64,000 Indiana men were employed in the CCC. This included about 59,000 junior and veteran enrollees and 5,000 staff. Among their many accomplishments were the planting of 24 million trees and the building of of 580 wildlife shelters.

(Source: Perry H. Merrill, "Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942," 1981, p. 127)

(A CCC camp sign in Brownstown, Indiana, 1933. Notice the image of what appears to be President Roosevelt in the upper right hand corner of the sign. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

Public Works of Art Project (PWAP):

Between 1933 and 1934, in Region 9 of the PWAP (Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan), unemployed artists were paid to create 70 sculptures, 159 water color paintings, 161 murals, 210 oil paintings, and other works of art, for use in public buildings and parks.

(Source: Public Works of Art Project, "Report of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to Federal Emergency Relief Administrator, December 8, 1933 - June 30, 1934," 1934, p. 8)

National Youth Administration (NYA):

During academic year 1939-1940, 781 schools and colleges in Indiana were participating in the NYA program, employing about 11,000 students each month.

During any given month of fiscal year 1942, there were about 6,000 young Indiana men & women in the NYA's out-of-school work program.

(Source: Federal Security Agency - War Manpower Commission, "Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943," 1944, pp. 246-247, and 254)

(WPA Children's Theatre in Gary, Indiana. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the New Deal Network.)

Post Offices:

During the New Deal era, the U.S Treasury built or expanded Post Office buildings in Indiana and commissioned artists to decorate them. See the Living New Deal's Indiana pages for examples.

Works Progress Administration (WPA):

Between 1935 and 1943, WPA workers in Indiana produced 6.8 million articles of clothing; served 13.1 million school lunches; created or improved 24,000 miles of roads; built or improved 3,000 bridges & viaducts; installed or improved 36,000 culverts; engaged in over 950 projects to build, repair, or improve schools; created or improved 361 parks; installed 245 miles of new water lines; constructed 75,000 linear feet of new airport & airfield runway; and more.

(Source: "Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43," 1946, pp. 134-136)

(A WPA culvert project in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1937. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

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