Federal Project Number One

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Federal One)
WPA Poster

Federal Project Number One, also referred to as Federal One, is the collective name for a group of projects under the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program in the United States. Of the $4.88 billion allocated by the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935,[1] $27 million was approved for the employment of artists, musicians, actors and writers under the WPA's Federal Project Number One.[2]: 44  In its prime, Federal Project Number One employed up to 40,000 writers, musicians, artists and actors because, as Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins put it, "Hell, they’ve got to eat, too".[3] This project had two main principles: 1) that in time of need the artist, no less than the manual worker, is entitled to employment as an artist at the public expense and 2) that the arts, no less than business, agriculture, and labor, are and should be the immediate concern of the ideal commonwealth.[4]

The five divisions of Federal One were these:

All projects were supposed to operate without discrimination regarding race, creed, color, religion, or political affiliation.[2]: 44 

Federal Project Number One ended in 1939 when, under pressure from Congress, the theater project was cancelled and the other projects were required to rely on state funding and local sponsorship.[5]


Many people[example needed] were opposed to government involvement in the arts. They[who?] feared that government funding and influence would lead to censorship and a violation of freedom of speech. Members of the House Un-American Activities Committee believed the program to be infiltrated by communists.[6]

However, with support from Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt signed the executive order to create this project because the government wanted to support, as Fortune magazine stated, “the kind of raw cultural material—the raw material of new creative work—which is so necessary to artists and particularly to artists in a new country.”[7]

Most of the newspapers and magazines in America were Republican and anti-Roosevelt, and they made what capital they could out of traditional American Philistinism. The Art Projects were scorned as "boondoggling." Under this constant and relentless attack it was necessary to develop work projects that could be defended as "worthwhile." For the project to have sent every artist home to paint his own pictures his own way without supervision or accountability would have invited disaster. Mural projects were a little less liable to charges of boondoggling than easel painting. They were relatively public and subject to scrutiny and criticism.

— Edward Laning, “When Uncle Sam Played Patron of the Arts: Memoirs of a WPA Painter”


An example of one of the Federal Writers' Project's books

As previously mentioned, at its peak Federal One employed 40,000 writers, musicians, artists and actors and the Federal Writers' project had around 6,500 people on the WPA payroll.[3] Many people benefitted from these programs and some FWP writers became famous, such as John Steinbeck and Zora Neale Hurston.[3] These writers were considered to be federal writers.[3] Furthermore, these projects also published books such as New York Panorama and the WPA Guide to New York City.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roosevelt, Franklin D. (August 26, 1935). "Letter on Allocation of Work Relief Funds". The American Presidency Project. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley. Retrieved 2015-03-02.
  2. ^ a b Flanagan, Hallie (1965). Arena: The History of the Federal Theatre. New York: Benjamin Blom, reprint edition [1940]. OCLC 855945294.
  3. ^ a b c d e Mutnick, Deborah (November 2014). "Toward a Twenty-First-Century Federal Writers' Project". College English. 77 (2): 124–145. JSTOR 24238170.
  4. ^ Edmonds, Rosalie (Spring 2008). "Documenting the Depression: Wisconsin's WPA Art". The Wisconsin Magazine of History. 91 (3): 18–23. JSTOR 25482075.
  5. ^ Hendrickson Jr., Kenneth (Spring 1993). "The WPA Federal Art Projects in Minnesota, 1935-1943". Minnesota History. 53 (5): 170–183. JSTOR 20187801.
  6. ^ Don Adams, Arlene Goldbard (March 2013). "Webster's World of Cultural Democracy". New Deal Cultural Programs." – via WWCD.
  7. ^ Cole, John (Fall 1983). "Amassing American "Stuff": The Library of Congress and the Federal Arts Projects of the 1930s". The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress. 40 (4): 356–389. JSTOR 29781993.

External links[edit]