American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work
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Seventy-five years after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, here for the first time is the remarkable story of one of its enduring cornerstones, the Works Progress Administration (WPA): its passionate believers, its furious critics, and its amazing accomplishments.
The WPA is American history that could not be more current, from providing economic stimulus to renewing a broken infrastructure. Introduced in 1935 at the height of the Great Depression, when unemployment and desperation ruled the land, this controversial nationwide jobs program would forever change the physical landscape and social policies of the United States. The WPA lasted eight years, spent $11 billion, employed 8½ million men and women, and gave the country not only a renewed spirit but a fresh face. Now this fascinating and informative book chronicles the WPA from its tumultuous beginnings to its lasting presence, and gives us cues for future action.
stresses of the speedup, the stretch-out, and other rigors of the American workplace. The Veterans Bonus Act of 1924, enacted in gratitude for their war service and over Calvin Coolidge’s veto, had promised them $1 a day for time spent stateside and $1.25 a day for service overseas. But while payments of $50 or less were made immediately, those owed more than that could not collect until 1945, when what were actually insurance policies established in their names would mature. In the desperate
House, having felt ill after dinner on May 10, the day the Germans invaded Belgium and the Netherlands, and been invited by Roosevelt to spend the night. He would end up staying for three and a half years, occupying what had once been Lincoln’s study. But even Hopkins, who had become the president’s closest advisor and confidant and even had a hot line to the White House in his Chicago hotel bathroom, did not know Roosevelt’s intentions. On the second night of the convention, delegates at last
U.S. Bureau of Investigation gunned down bank robber John Dillinger outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago in July, the agency elevated Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd to iconic stature, naming him public enemy number one. By then Floyd had reputedly robbed thirty banks and killed at least ten men, including one law officer. But like the notorious Al Capone, now serving his federal tax evasion sentence at Alcatraz, he had become an anti-hero; Capone had his soup kitchen, and Floyd, who had grown up
on the strength of his efforts at relieving want, the first time in Europe during and after the Great War, when he headed programs that supplied food to millions in Belgium and northern France. The Russian writer Maxim Gorky had credited him with saving the lives of 3.5 million children and 5.5 million adults. As commerce secretary for eight years under Harding and Coolidge, Hoover had studied the 1920–21 recession and devoted himself to trying to design cures for business downturns while holding
Roosevelt, calling out thanks and blessings when he appeared on the campaign trail. And they talked back to his attackers, booing the press cars of the Tribune during the president’s October 14 appearance in Chicago. There, he told a roaring crowd of nearly a hundred thousand that he believed in individualism “up to the point where the individualist starts to operate at the expense of society.” He reminded cheering audiences everywhere that conditions had improved dramatically in his four years