McCoy, Elizabeth (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume LXV (1977)
Ring, Daniel F.
New deal work projects at the Milwaukee Public Library, pp. 28-40 PDF (4.7 MB)
NEW DEAL WORK PROJECTS AT THE MILWAUKEE PUBLIC LIBRARY Daniel F. Ring Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan "Give a man a dole and you save his body and destroy his spirit; give him a job and pay him an assured wage and you save both the body and the spirit."1 This statement by Harry Hopkins reflects the philosophy of the New Deal, its creator Franklin D. Roosevelt and like-minded social thinkers such as Homer Folks. Thus, an important purpose of the many work-relief bureaus was to "substitute work for relief"2 so as to restore feelings of self-esteem to the unemployed. Some authorities would contend that the unprecedented intervention of the Federal government caused a revolution in the StateFederal relationships, not to mention waste and inefficiency, which is summed up in the word "boondoggling." The New Deal did effect a revolution in the nature of the government and there was undoubtedly a great deal of waste and inefficiency. But to emphasize only these negative aspects would seriously distort the picture. In seeking to save the capitalistic system from collapse, the New Deal made unstinted efforts to salvage human resources. Many people today are familiar with the New Deal's accomplishments through an awareness of its physical outcroppings—the dams, airports and parks that dot America's landscape. But the New Deal also played a sizeable role in fostering cultural and scholarly programs which became known as "white collar" jobs because they provided work to such unemployed professionals as musicians, artists, and clerks. This article will discuss the origins, nature and results of the "white collar" enterprises of the Civilian Works Authority (C.W.A.), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (F.E.R.A.) and the Works Projects Administration (W.P.A.) which were administered through the Milwaukee Public Library. From 1933 until 1942, the Milwaukee Public Library and the New Deal were closely linked. Many New Deal programs were of marginal significance, making no lasting impact on the Library and contributing nothing of consequence to the cultural heritage of the community. Among these was the National Industrial Recovery Act or the N.R.A., as its administration came to be called. The 28
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