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Works Progress Administration Index

The 1930s in American history are infamous for the Great Depression and its accompanying joblessness, poverty, disruptions, and sense of personal loss. St. Joseph County, Indiana, was no exception. Township Trustees, tasked with poor relief, were inundated with requests for aid, far beyond their meager resources and those of civic organizations willing to assist. They, in turn, begged the State Legislature for assistance. The State Legislature turned to the federal government for assistance.

The result was a series of federal programs enacted over the next decade to provide employment and stimulate the flow of cash at the local level, all based on the submission of appropriate project proposals by local officials. St. Joseph County vigorously pursued projects for its residents through the various programs. Although we tend to generically call these programs all WPA programs the programs included the Federal Emergency Relief Act (FERA), Civil Works Administration (CWA), Public Works Administration (PWA), National Youth Administration (NYA) and the Works Projects Administration, also known as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), sometimes also lumped together under “dole labor.” The Civilian Conservation Corps is not included here.

This index covers 1933 – 1941, although there were certainly local relief efforts prior to 1933. The index includes articles from the South Bend Tribune, the Mishawaka Enterprise, and the Fair Dealer, a Mishawaka newspaper published briefly in the mid-1930s. The index can be searched by individuals, cities, parks, schools, streets, or general subject such as sewers or St. Joseph River. Use your imagination in searching.

The 1930s public works programs produced an amazing number of projects, large and small, in St. Joseph County. Some of these projects still exist and can still be viewed. Using this index provides some insight into how the residents of St. Joseph County survived a devastating decade in our nation’s history, a decade ended only by a world-wide war.

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