When the stock market crashed In September of 1929, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was governor of New York. At first, he felt quite cautious about taking any direct action to deal with the financial chaos, as did most government officials at the time. As the Great Depression tightened its grip on the nation, however, FDR began his push for government intervention. He created new work programs for the jobless in his state, including an environmental conservation and building initiative that would be the model for the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of his most successful programs when he was in the White House. Meanwhile, under President Herbert Hoover, the nation as a whole sank deeper into the Depression.
With this overwhelming mandate, FDR quickly implemented new programs to try to address the problems of the Depression. During the first hundred days of his administration, Congress passed a series of landmark bills that created a new role for the federal government: to take an active interest in the economy and in people's lives. These early bills stabilized the banking system, created emergency relief funds, supported hard-hit farmers, conserved the American landscape, and built the nation's infrastructure. Under FDR, Congress passed the Social Security Act, the most enduring of the New Deal programs, providing a previously unheard-of social safety net for the elderly, for widows and children, and for individuals with disabilities. And, as Spare A Dime will explore, FDR established the Civil Works Administration (replaced in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration), advocating work over welfare. In the next few days we'll take a closer look at some of the major events of the Great Depression and the WPA projects that impact our Spare A Dime characters.