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Civil Works Administration

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Civil Works Administration workers cleaning and painting the gold dome of the Colorado State Capitol (1934).

The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was a short-lived job creation program established by the New Deal during the Great Depression in the United States in order to rapidly create mostly manual-labor jobs for millions of unemployed workers. The jobs were merely temporary, for the duration of the hard winter of 1933–34. President Franklin D. Roosevelt unveiled the CWA on November 8, 1933, and put Harry L. Hopkins in charge of the short-term agency.

The CWA was a project created under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). The CWA created construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges. It ended on March 31, 1934, after spending $200 million a month and giving jobs to four million people.


CWA workers laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or improved 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports.[1] The program was praised by Alf Landon, who later ran against Roosevelt in the 1936 election.[1]

Representative of the work are one county's accomplishments in less than five months, from November 1933 to March 1934. Grand Forks County, North Dakota put 2,392 unemployed workers on its payroll at a cost of about $250,000. When the CWA began in eastern Connecticut, it could hire only 480 workers out of 1,500 who registered for jobs. Projects undertaken included work on city utility systems, public buildings, parks, and roads. Rural areas profited, with most labor being directed to roads and community schools. CWA officials gave preference to veterans with dependents, but considerable political favoritism determined which North Dakotans got jobs.[2]


Although the CWA provided much employment, there were critics who said there was nothing of permanent value. Roosevelt told his cabinet that this criticism moved him to end the program and replace it with the WPA which would have long-term value for the society, in addition to short-term benefits for the unemployed.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Peters, Charles; Noah, Timothy (Jan 26, 2009), "Wrong Harry – Four million jobs in two years? FDR did it in two months", Slate
  2. ^ Roger D. Hardaway, "The New Deal at the Local Level: The Civil Works Administration in Grand Forks County, North Dakota," North Dakota History, 1991, Vol. 58 Issue 2, pp 20–30
  3. ^ Harold L. Ickes, Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes: The First Thousand Days 1933–1936 (1953) p. 256 [ISBN missing]

Further reading[edit]

  • Badger, Anthony J. "Doles and Jobs: Welfare." in The New Deal (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1989) pp. 190–244.[ISBN missing]
  • Bremer, William W. "Along the "American Way": The New Deal's Work Relief Programs for the Unemployed", Journal of American History Vol. 62, No. 3 (Dec., 1975), pp. 636–652 in JSTOR
  • Hopkins, June. Harry Hopkins: Sudden hero, brash reformer (Springer, 2016).[ISBN missing]
  • Lewis, Michael. "No Relief From Politics: Machine Bosses and Civil Works." Urban Affairs Quarterly 30.2 (1994): 210–226.
  • Lyon, Edwin A. A new deal for southeastern archaeology (University of Alabama Press, 1996).[ISBN missing]
  • Neumann, Todd C., Price V. Fishback, and Shawn Kantor. "The dynamics of relief spending and the private urban labor market during the New Deal." Journal of Economic History 70.1 (2010): 195–220. online
  • Peters, Charles and Timothy Noah. "Wrong Harry – Four million jobs in two years? FDR did it in two months" Slate Jan. 26, 2009 online
  • Schwartz, Bonnie Fox. The Civil Works Administration, 1933–1934: The Business of Emergency Employment in the New Deal (1984), a standard scholarly history[ISBN missing]
  • Smith, Jason Scott. Building new deal liberalism: The political economy of public works, 1933–1956 (Cambridge University Press, 2006).[ISBN missing]
  • Walker, Forrest A. The Civil Works Administration: an experiment in Federal work relief, 1933–1934 (1979), a standard scholarly history[ISBN missing]

Primary sources[edit]

External links[edit]