The Civil Works Administration, 1933-1934

The Civil Works Administration, 1933-1934: The Business of Emergency Employment in the New Deal

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Civil Works Administration, 1933-1934
    Book Description:

    Bonnie Fox Schwartz examines the New Deal's Civil Works Administration, the first federal job-creation program for the unemployed. Challenging assumptions that social workers and other urban liberals dominated New Deal relief agencies, she describes the role of engineers and industrial managers in the CWA's employment of 4.2 million Americans during the winter of 1933-1934.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5685-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Origins of Civil Works: Unorthodox Social Work and Progressive Engineering
    (pp. 3-38)

    In October, 1933, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Administration settled in for its first winter, the federal government undertook a nation-wide relief census. For the first time, officials in Washington dared to count the exact number of families receiving aid from public funds, the number of persons in these families, the total cost to government, and gather other information to calculate the national dimensions of unemployment and dependency. When the statistics were finally tabulated, the Relief Census documented the shattering impact of four years of depression. More than 12.5 million Americans—ten percent of the population—were living...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Civil Works Organization: From Social Welfare to Social Engineering and Management
    (pp. 39-71)

    When Harry Hopkins left the White House on Friday afternoon, November 2, 1933, after a luncheon meeting with President Roosevelt, he “fairly walked on air.” Instead of taking two or three weeks of persuasion, FDR had acceded at once to his proposal for a new federal work relief program and even ordered Hopkins to get it going by the following week! Coming down to earth, the FERA Administrator quickly summoned his top aides, field men, and intimate advisors. He telephoned Aubrey Williams in New Orleans, interrupting his speech before the Community Chest, to give him the news that “his program”...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The CWA in the States: Social Workers and Corporate Liberals vs. the Bosses
    (pp. 72-101)

    Less than a week after President Roosevelt had designated him the Civil Works Administrator, Harry Hopkins took his plans for federal work relief before the state and local officials in whose hands the success of the program would largely rest. He invited governors, mayors, city managers, and state and county emergency relief administrators to the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on November 13 for a briefing on CWARules and Regulations. Over 500 in the audience saw FDR discard the text of the speech that Hopkins had prepared and challenge them to aid the recovery. Most were members of existing state...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Civil Works and the AFL
    (pp. 102-128)

    “We are going to have to find some way to secure the approval of organized labor,” warned Aubrey Williams, as he and Harry Hopkins began discussing plans for a work relief program in October, 1933. The two social workers knew they had to placate the American Federation of Labor, long opposed to government “made jobs.” In hard times, building tradesmen had always favored tax-supported public works as long as they were undertaken by private contractors who were covered by collective bargaining agreements. But “work for relief” schemes smacked of charity, and AFL unions feared relief standards would undercut prevailing wages...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Civil Works for the White Collar and Professional
    (pp. 129-155)

    The Great Depression remorselessly decimated the ranks of America’s 14 million white collar and professional employees. By 1932, one third of the nation’s clerical workers had no jobs, and a Columbia University study revealed ninety percent of all architects idle. Two thirds of the American Federation of Musicians reported “at liberty,” and New York City alone counted 15,000 teachers waiting for appointments. “Not many of us wear white collars anymore,” commented a journalist. “We wear blue, green, tan, gray, checked, dotted, striped and a lot of them are badly frayed.”¹ Although the depression had slashed salaries, erased fringe benefits, and...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Civil Works for the “Forgotten Woman”
    (pp. 156-180)

    On November 20, 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt called a White House Conference on the Emergency Needs of Women. Over forty representatives from settlement work, education, government service, and social clubs attended. They listened to the First Lady decry how American women “have been neglected in comparison with others, and throughout this depression have had the hardest time of all.” The only man present, Harry Hopkins, head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, admitted that unemployed and destitute women had received little attention. Assuring his audience, however, that women would get a fair shake in the future, he estimated that 400,000 could...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Four Million: From Relief Clients to Work Force
    (pp. 181-212)

    On February 3, 1940, almost six years after the CWA had folded, J. L. Wickkiser of Easton, Pennsylvania, sent a letter to President Roosevelt, enclosing photographs that he had taken as a civil works employee. “In 1933, I was in desperate circumstances,” he recalled. When he applied for work at the local USES office, he was assigned to a project at the Schull Junior High School to help lay a concrete driveway so that garbage trucks could have access to the building’s incinerator. Wickkiser had the morning shift, doing menial work in the cold. Years later, this man, a prosperous...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Demobilization
    (pp. 213-238)

    Few men had a more distasteful task to perform than Harry Hopkins in mid-January, 1934. Just as the CWA had gone over the top, with more than 4 million Americans on the federal payroll, he had to issue orders for retrenchment. The speed and daring with which the CWA had achieved its goals had also ballooned weekly wage totals, pushed material costs far above original estimates, and spread worries of mounting compensation benefits as a permanent expense for the U.S. Treasury. The very policies which had lifted the CWA above traditional made work had forced expenditures beyond the November appropriation...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Reconversion to Work Relief: the FERA Work Division and the WPA
    (pp. 239-259)

    On February 28, 1934, the White House issued a press release, announcing a new three-point program under which the Federal Emergency Relief Administration would replace the scrapped CWA. Throughout the winter, FERA grants-in-aid had continued to support direct relief as well as supplementary programs for transients and self-help cooperatives through state and local emergency relief offices. Now, the FERA would take up the great burden, according to an ambitious blueprint. First, rural relief, coordinated with the Department of Agriculture, would provide subsistence homesteads. Second, “stranded populations” in communities dependent upon a single industry, such as miners in the worn-out Appalachian...

  15. Epilogue: From CWA to CETA
    (pp. 260-276)

    In fifty years since the New Deal, no subsequent administration from the Fair Deal to the Great Society to the Jimmy Carter Administration has embarked upon such a determined commitment as the CWA to provide the unemployed with public jobs. Despite ups and downs in the business cycle, Americans have not confronted a catastrophic depression with one third the nation in dire need. As a result, despite chronic joblessness, the public has grown indifferent toward the unemployed as well as come to realize that remedies for idleness and poverty seem to involve far more complex considerations than simply providing work....

    (pp. 277-284)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 285-300)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-301)