The new deal alphabet agencies summary




The new deal alphabet agencies summary


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The new deal alphabet agencies summary

The New Deal Alphabet Agencies.

Harry Hopkins and the WPA.

To help the unskilled worker, Harry Hopkins set up a new work relief agency in 1935, the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The WPA soon became the country’s biggest employer, giving work to an average of 2,000,000 people each year.
Between 1933 and 1939 the WPA helped to build:

  • 11,000 schools
  • 70,000 km of new roads
  • La Guardia airport in New York.

The WPA also gave work to artists of all kinds. Unemployed writers were paid to write a series of guidebooks to America’s States and cities.  Painters made pictures for display in schools and other public buildings.  Twelve thousand actors were sent on tour to perform in shows and plays across the country.  Photographers were employed to make photographic records of the Depression years.

The WPA provided work for millions of people.  The wages earned allowed them to buy food, clothing and other goods.  As people began to buy again, farmers, shopkeepers, businessmen and factory owners began to make profits again.  The more profits they made, the more they were able to expand their businesses, and that meant even more jobs for the unemployed.

Put the title “Harry Hopkins and the WPA”.

  • What was the name of the alphabet agency set up by Harry Hopkins in 1935?
  • On average how many people did the WPA employ each year?
  • What did the WPA help to build between 1933 and 1939?
  • Give two examples of work that the WPA got artists of all kinds to do?
  • Do you think that this was money well spent?
  • Explain how the WPA directly helped the American economy to grow again?

A New Deal for the Farmers.

Of all the groups hit by the Great Depression, the farmers were the worst off.  The price of food was so low that they could not make any profit when they sold their crops at market.  As a result their incomes dropped.  Many farmers tried growing more crops, hoping to make a profit through bigger sales, but this simply made prices drop even lower.

Agricultural Adjustment.

Roosevelt instructed Henry Wallace, Secretary fro Agriculture, to make plans for immediate aid to farmers.  On 12th May 1933 the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) came into being.  Wallace’s aim in setting up the AAA was to reduce the size of farmers’ crops by ‘adjusting’ them.  His idea was if smaller amounts of farm produce were sold at market, the price would rise, giving the farmers bigger profits.

The AAA set to work immediately – by giving farmers money to destroy their crops!  Many thousands of cotton farmers received over $100,000,000 for ploughing that summer’s crops into the ground.

Many Americans were horrified by this policy of the AAA.  They were even angrier when the AAA bought 6,000,000 baby pigs from hog farmers and slaughtered them all.  Even though the meat was canned and given to away for free to the unemployed, it seemed crazy for the government to pay farmers not to produce food.
Despite all the objections the AAA’s adjustment of farm prices worked.  Prices quickly rose, and with them rose farmers’ incomes.

The Problem of the Sharecroppers.

The AAA policy of crop adjustment helped farmers who owned their own land, but it did nothing for the people who worked for them – the sharecroppers.
Over half the 3,000,000 sharecroppers in America were Black, and most lived in slum conditions.  Erskine Caldwell, an American writer, visited a two-room shack shared by three families of sharecroppers in 1933.  This is what he saw:

“In one of the two rooms a six year old boy licked the paper bag the meat had been brought in.  His legs were scarcely larger than a medium-sized dog’s legs, and his belly was as large as that of a 130lb woman’s…  On the floor beside an open fire lay two babies, neither a year old, sucking the dry teats of a mongrel bitch”.



The AAA policy of destroying crops made conditions even worse for the sharecroppers.  Once they had helped the farm-owner destroy the year’s crop, there was no work left for them to do, and no crop for them to share.  Thousands had to pack their belongings and leave their slum homes to look for work in other parts of the country.

Put the title “A New Deal for the Farmers”.

  • Which group of people did the Great Depression hit worst?
  • How did this group try to make more profits? And why did this fail?
  • What was the AAA?
  • What was the aim of the AAA?
  • What was the first thing that the AAA ordered farmers to do?
  • Why were many Americans horrified by this policy?
  • Did the AAA achieve its aim?
  • Which group of people did the AAA’s policies not help?
  • What were many of this group of people forced to do?
  • Read the quote.  Would this be useful to someone trying to argue that the New Deal was a success or a failure?  Explain your answer.
  • Do you think that the AAA was a success?  Explain your answer.

New Deal For The Land.

Two of the most famous ‘alphabet agencies’ did more than give jobs to the unemployed.  They also improved the quality of the environment and the results of their work can still be seen today.

The CCC.

President Roosevelt’s favourite agency for helping the unemployed aimed to also improve the countryside.  This was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which Roosevelt set up in March 1933.

The CCC gave work to unmarried men aged 18 to 25 whose parents were out of work.  By July 1933, 300,000 young men were living in 13,000 camps all over America.  By 1938, some 2,000,000 had served in the CCC, most of them for periods of six months to a year.

The men in the CCC camps were given food, clothing and shelter – either in huts or tents – in return for their work.  They also go pocket money of $1 a day, but camp rules said that they had to send home $25 a month to their parents.
The CCC worked mainly to improve and conserve the country’s forests.  In the Midwest it planted more than 200,000,000 trees to stop soil erosion.  Over half of all of the trees growing in America today were planted by the CCC during the New Deal years.

As well as planting trees the CCC also:

  • Made reservoirs and fishponds.
  • Built fire lookout posts in forests.
  • Treated tree diseases like Dutch Elm disease.
  • Cleared up beaches and camping grounds.
  • Restored historic battlefields.

President Roosevelt said in 1934 “The CCC activity has probably been the most successful of anything I have done.  There is not a word of complaint”.  A survey of CCC seemed to confirm this:
“I weighed about 160lbs when I went there, and when I left I was 190lbs.  It made a man out of me”.
“It helps you get along with other people in general, because it helps you to get over being selfish”.

The TVA.

America’s biggest environmental problem when Roosevelt became President was in the Tennessee Valley.  The Tennessee at that time was a very dangerous river.  Every spring it flooded, washing away millions of tonnes of topsoil and destroying farms in the area.  In summer it often dried to a trickle, parching the farmlands.  Each year the eroded land of the Tennessee Valley produced fewer and fewer crops.  The people living there grew poorer and hungrier until; by 1933 half were living on dole money paid by the State.  The Tennessee Valley, an area as large as England and Wales put together, had become what Roosevelt called ‘the nation’s number one economic problem’.

It was a problem far too big for the CCC to handle, so in May 1933 Roosevelt set up a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to tackle it.

The TVA began by building dams on the Tennessee River and its tributaries.  At the touch of a button the dam controllers could close massive sluice gates to hold back the river when it threatened to flood.  In all the TVA built 21 massive dams over the next 10 years.

The TVA dams brought many benefits to the region.  First, they were used to make cheap electricity.  Powerful turbines built into the walls of the dams were driven by jets of water released from the lakes behind them.  By 1940 the 21 dams were producing 3.2 billion kilowatts of electricity each year.

A second benefit of the dams came from the lakes that built up behind them.  The lakes were long, wide and deep – ideal for water transport.  Locks built into the sides of the dams meant that ships could travel 1000km up the river, carrying coal, steel and other products to the region’s factories.  The factories could also transport their products to distant areas for sale, and this increased their profits.

Gradually the poverty of the Tennessee Valley disappeared.  By 1940 it was a prosperous area, the pride of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Put the title “A New Deal for the Land – CCC and TVA”.

  • What was the CCC? And what was its aim?
  • Who exactly did the CCC give work to?
  • By 1938, how many Americans had been given work by the CCC?
  • How much did CCC workers receive in pay?
  • Give four examples of jobs that the CCC did?
  • What evidence is there that the CCC was seen as a success?
  • What were the environmental problems that the Tennessee Valley faced?
  • What was the TVA?
  • What exactly did the TVA do?
  • Give two benefits that the people of the Tennessee Valley received as a result of the work of the TVA?
  • Which do you think did more to help the American economy, the CCC or the TVA?  Explain your answer.

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