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WPA Federal Writers' Project (NYC Unit), 1936-1943 

Manuscripts, research materials, photographs; Historical Records Survey.

The Works Progress Administration began in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Depression caused massive unemployment and overwhelmed the resources of private charities and state and local governments alike. Pledging bold action and a "new deal for the American people" when he took office in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted a number of programs to relieve the country's plight. The WPA was a direct outgrowth of these early relief efforts.

The Federal Writers' Project was organized in the autumn of 1935 in order to utilize the skills of the so-called 'white collar' unemployed. The New York City Unit was particularly prolific. The Municipal Archives holds records created for forty-one book projects, some of which reached publication and some not, among them the New York City Guide, New York Panorama, and assorted studies including The Italians of New York (in both Italian and English versions), The Film Index: A Bibliography, The Jewish Landsmanschaftn of New York (in Yiddish), Jewish Families and Family Circles of New York (in Yiddish), and A Maritime History of New York.


With assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the entire manuscript records of the WPA Writer's Project were microfilmed. Over the course of the project, a folder-level inventory was created. The Church record survey of the WPA Historical Records Survey has also been microfilmed. The related photograph collection has also been microfilmed.