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FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS, 1930-1944

Like the entire country, the State of Delaware suffered from high unemployment during the years of the depression. Also like the other States in the Union, Delaware benefited from the New Deal unemployment legislation proposed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and enacted by the Congress.

Among the programs operating within Delaware were the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The CWA was one of the first relief programs established in the nation and was also one of the most short lived. It was established in 1933 to provide emergency government sponsored jobs to those who otherwise would have been on relief. It suffered through an absence of coordinated planning and, consequently, was discontinued in the spring of 1934.1 Also created in 1933 was the CCC. It’s purpose was to establish conservation camps throughout the United States and employ unmarried men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five.2 In Delaware the CCC dug ditches in the many marshes to drain mosquito nests.

By far the most comprehensive of the New Deal unemployment relief programs was the WPA. It was established in 1935 and was ended only by the full employment generated by World War II. It employed unskilled laborers on various construction projects (i.e., roads, parks, playgrounds, etc. ) skilled laborers for building construction (i.e., schools, post offices, and other public buildings); and also employed white collar workers on historical and cultural projects (i.e., theater, historical and government records’ surveys, and oral histories).3 In Delaware the WPA employees surveyed historical records, transcribed church records, and listed tombstone inscriptions throughout the State. The Historical Records Survey in cooperation with the Delaware Public Archives Commission oversaw these projects. This survey of records resulted in the publication of an invaluable archival research tool, the Inventory of the County Archives of Delaware; No. 1 New Castle County. Most of the records noted in the survey are contained in the holdings of the State Archives. Work was begun on the survey for the other two counties but was never completed. What records were generated for Kent and Sussex Counties are also part of the State’s archival holdings.

FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS, 1930-1944

1 Hicks, Mowry, and Burke; The American Nation, Fifth Edition.

2 Ibid, p. 561.

3 Ibid.

sle/jrf; May 16, 1989; May 25, 1989