Jump to Navigation

Records of the U.S. Work Projects Administration

Creator: United States. Work Projects Administration. Kansas

Date: 1935-1968

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type: Government record

Call Number: Unavailable

Unit ID: 217611

Space Required/Quantity: [Not stated]

Title (Main title): Records of the U.S. Work Projects Administration

Titles (Other):

  • Records of the Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Administrative History

Administrative History:

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was instituted by presidential executive order under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April 1935, to generate public jobs for the unemployed during the Great Depression. It was an independent agency funded directly by Congress, and was the Federal Government's most ambitious undertaking to provide employment for the jobless. The WPA was created to replace earlier attempts to bring the Depression under control with the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Public Works Administration (PWA), and the Civil Works Administration (CWA). It was renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939 when it absorbed the FERA. At that time, it became part of the Federal Works Agency.

The program built many public buildings, projects, and roads; and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. It also administered a group of cultural projects known collectively as Federal One. These projects included the Federal Writers' Project, Historical Records Survey, Federal Theatre Project, Federal Music Project, and the Federal Art Project.

The Federal Writers' Project (FWP), a part of the WPA, was a United States federal government project to fund written work and support writers. Established on July 27, 1935, it was directed by Henry Alsberg and later John D. Newsome. The project aimed to compile local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children's books, and other works throughout all regions in the United States. The most famous of these publications was the American Guide Series, containing detailed histories of each state with descriptions of every city and town. Federal sponsorship for the FWP ended in 1939 while state sponsorship continued until 1943.

The Historical Records Survey was another important WPA project. Originally a part of the Federal Writers' Project, its mission was to identify, survey, and catalog historically significant records in federal, state, county, and local archives throughout the United States. In 1936, Luther Evans was appointed director and the agency became an independent section of Federal One. With the end of Federal One in August 1939, Luther Evans resigned and the new director, Sargent Child tried to complete all the survey projects already underway. The Historical Records Survey subsequently became a part of the Community Service Program, and by 1941 the central staff was reduced to only 12 employees. The Historical Records Survey ended in 1943.

Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost 8 million jobs. The WPA was abolished by Congress in 1943 as unemployment rates fell due to World War II.

Scope and Content

Scope and content: This collection contains both paper and microfilmed records from the Work Projects Administration (originally the Works Progress Administration, or WPA), particularly the Federal Writers' Project and Historical Records Survey programs completed in Kansas. The records are dated 1935-1968; although the WPA ceased in 1943, the collection contains newspaper clippings from as late as 1968.

The majority of the records are in paper format and were created by employees of the Federal Writers' Project. Two closely related series, the American Guide Research Reports and the American Guide Survey, contain drafts of county histories and reports on religion, culture, entertainment, tourism, local government, railroads, bus lines, shopping, notable residents, businesses, education, museums, music, and other characteristics of each Kansas county. Other records include newspaper clippings and obituaries used as source material for the histories and reports. These records were used to prepare the American Guide Series book for Kansas.

The bulk of the records document the Kansas Historical Records Survey, a Federal Writers' Project program devoted to surveying and indexing historically significant records in state, county, and local archives. These include survey forms identifying historic records throughout all Kansas counties and most cities, as well as records surveys for church records per county. The survey forms state the location, size, dates, general arrangement, and a description of each record series identified. Included are WPA publications of the surveyed records that were intended to be used by future researchers.

The two microfilmed series, Kansas Projects Folders (Projects Records) and Kansas Projects Files and Index Cards - Works Progress Administration, document WPA construction projects throughout the state. The records include project proposals including location of work, budget information, worker information, and project description; county maps; equipment and cost estimates; project application forms; reports compiled for discontinued projects; and final reports of physical accomplishments. The projects include constructing or repairing new roads, buildings, parks, reservoirs, swimming pools, and other public facilities.


No Locators Identified

Related Records or Collections

Finding Aids: For a detailed description of the county records see the Works Progress Administration, Inventory of County and Local Government Records, 1986.


Finding Aid Bibliography: Bing, Margaret. "A Brief Overview of the WPA." http://www.broward.org/library/bienes/lii10204.htm (accessed July 28, 2009).

Colorado State Archives. "Work(s) Progress Administration Photograph Collection at the Colorado State Archives." http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/wpa/home.htm (accessed July 28, 2009.)

Index Terms


    United States. Works Progress Administration -- History
    Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kansas -- Records and correspondence
    Historical Records Survey (Kan.)
    Kansas -- Guidebooks
    Kansas -- History -- Archival resources
    Archival materials -- Kansas
    New Deal, 1933-1939 -- Kansas
    Public service employment -- Kansas -- History

Creators and Contributors

Agency Classification:

    Federal Agencies. Federal Writers Project.