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American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work | [Nick Taylor]

American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work

When President Roosevelt took the oath of office in March 1933, he was facing a devastated nation. Four years into the Great Depression, a staggering 13 million American workers were jobless and many millions more of their family members were equally in need. Desperation ruled the land. In 1935, after a variety of temporary relief measures, a permanent nationwide jobs program was created.
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Publisher's Summary

When President Roosevelt took the oath of office in March 1933, he was facing a devastated nation. Four years into the Great Depression, a staggering 13 million American workers were jobless, and many millions more of their family members were equally in need. Desperation ruled the land.

What people wanted were jobs, not handouts - the pride of earning a paycheck. And in 1935, after a variety of temporary relief measures, a permanent nationwide jobs program was created. This was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and it would forever change the physical landscape and the social policies of the United States.

The WPA lasted for eight years, spent $11 billion, employed 8.5 million men and women, and gave the country not only a renewed spirit but a fresh face. Under its colorful head, Harry Hopkins, the agency's remarkable accomplishment was to combine the urgency of putting people back to work with its vision of physically rebuilding America. Its workers laid roads and erected dams, bridges, tunnels, and airports. They stocked rivers, made toys, sewed clothes, and served millions of hot school lunches. When disasters struck, they were there by the thousands to rescue the stranded. And all across the country the WPA's arts programs performed concerts, staged plays, painted murals, delighted children with circuses, and created invaluable guidebooks. Even today, more than 60 years after the WPA ceased to exist, there is almost no area in America that does not bear some visible mark of its presence.

Politically controversial, the WPA was staffed by passionate believers and hated by conservatives; its critics called its projects make-work, and wags said WPA stood for "We Piddle Around". The contrary was true. We have only to look about us today to discover its lasting presence.

©2008 Nick Taylor; (P)2008 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Eloquent and balanced....A splendid appreciation of the WPA." (Publishers Weekly)
"Vividly rendered - a near-definitive account of one of the most massive government interventions into domestic affairs in American history." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Helen Austin Texas 07-01-08
    Helen Austin Texas 07-01-08

    Reading Raven

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    "The true spirit of America."

    Not having grown up in the depression I only knew what I briefly read about this period of Amercian history. I selected this book because I am genealogy geek, and discovered a family member who worked for the WPA, and named Harry Hopkins as his boss. So I goggled info on WPA, not knowing a thing about it. This book helped me live through the lives of several people during 1930 to 1943, and it helped me truly understand why FDR was such a great President. This book shows the groundwork for social reform from job projects to social security to arts programs. I was inspired by the need to build people up by giving them something to do, and for many it was also something they loved. Roosevelt's New DEAL policies had truly changed American politics and programs. I could not help but be reminded of the state of affairs we are in today and the need for a change. High praise to the author and the narrator. Incredible amount of research too!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roderick El Centro, CA, United States 07-27-08
    Roderick El Centro, CA, United States 07-27-08 Member Since 2004
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    "An Excellent book whose timing is important"

    My main take away from this book is how the unemployed during the depression wanted to work. How FDR thought just giving money was taking something away from peoples pride and that it would cause long term bad effects. Wow was he correct on that. Wish politicians would read up on him to understand that to give money is not the idea, give a job and build the persons character and pride.

    Excellent book with a lot of history that isnt taught. Great narrator also.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Aylmer Yakima, Washington United States 11-18-08
    John Aylmer Yakima, Washington United States 11-18-08 Member Since 2005
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    "A Great Exposure to the New Deal"

    This book is a marvelous history of an agency that helped to transform the United States during a period of monumental misery. American Made tells the story of the WPA and how it put impoverished and unemployed men and women to work building and updating America's infrastructure during the Great Depression. The book describes an agency that personifies the positive outlook of Franklin Roosevelt and his trusted associate, Harry Hopkins. The WPA embodied their preference for work, craftsmanship, skill, ability, and creativity rather than providing unnecessar "make work" projects or the do nothing "dole".

    This history clarifies the evolution of the WPA from an emergency agency designed to provide incomes for the unemployed in the bleak winter months of 1933 through its termination in 1942 in the full employment environment of World War II. Nick Taylor catches the unique flavor of the agency and provides an excellent account of the Writers Project, the Theater Project, and the Artist Project. Taylor captures the rationale for assisting out of work authors, actors, and artists in a time of economic catastrophe and he carefully details their accomplishments. He also underscores the monumental lasting accomplishments of unskilled and semi-skilled employees of the WPA.

    This book is worth a full and complete listening.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jaime 09-05-10
    Jaime 09-05-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Interesting primary materials but one-sided"

    American made is an incredible "tour de force" of primary materials of the WPA. Lots of first hand stories which bring to life what the depression and the WPA meant.

    However, it is not without serious shortcomings that limit its interest. First, there is little structure to the story beyond a certain chronological and thematic outline so you are exposed to a long unstructured series of events. Second, it is completely one-sided and uncritical on Roosevelt and especially Harry Hopkins, at times even hagiographic. Finally, it has no thesis or lessons learnt beyond the fact that the WPA was important and relevant.

    In summary, might be worthwhile for real buffs of Roosevelt, Hopkins or the New Deal. However, there are plenty of better history books (in general and on the period) that would be a much better use of their time for most people.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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