Tuesday, July 12, 2016

New Deal toys for children

Above: The description for this 1938 photo reads, "Girl shown with doll that was repaired on WPA doll repair project." The photo was taken in Washington, DC, and is provided courtesy of the National Archives.

Toys are a fun part of growing up. They also enhance the development of creativity, focus, and problem-solving skills. New Deal policymakers understood all this. So, they paid unemployed workers to make toys, or refurbish discarded toys, for underprivileged children. These types of work projects solved or addressed three matters: Unemployment, child development, and waste.

A 1935 report from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) noted the following: 

"In [public works] handicraft projects, over twenty-five hundred women were employed; while in handicraft classes, 3,203 women teachers conducted 43,250 classes attended by 1,058,205 women and girls. These handicraft groups made baskets and rugs, they wove, knitted and crocheted, they made toys for Christmas distribution to the children of relief families, sometimes fabricating them ingeniously out of cornshucks, pine needles, walnut shells, and gourds. Some very fine work was done in copper. Broken toys were collected and repaired in many states for Christmas distribution. Typical reports from Montana tell of the help of the Girl Scouts, the Rainbow Girls and Boy Scouts in collecting these old toys for renovation, and of money to buy Christmas candies donated by the Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis and Rotana clubs" (The Emergency Work Relief Program of the F.E.R.A., April 1, 1934 - July 1, 1935, p. 84).

   Above: The description for this 1938 photo reads, "Dolls are repaired by women workers on a WPA Doll Repair Project." Photo taken in Washington, DC, and provided courtesy of the National Archives.

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