Rural Electrification Administration
The Rural Electrification Administration was created by Executive Order 7037 of May 11 under authority of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, approved April 8, 1935, (49 Stat. 115).
Before the onset of the New Deal, only 10 percent of areas outside cities had electricity. The REA encouraged farmers to join cooperatives formed with the purpose of bringing electricity to the farming communities. The REA then granted low-cost loans to the cooperatives.
In 1938 a requirement was added that those borrowing under the REA would use materials and supplies produced in the United States. The intention was to supply jobs in all phase of the project from manufacture of materials to creating the electrical infrastructure to running the cooperative itself. By 1939 417 rural electric cooperatives serving 288,000 households had been established. The main opponents of the REA were electric companies that felt that the Co-ops had an unfair advantage over traditional companies. On July 1, 1939, REA became a part of the Department of Agriculture under Reorganization Plan 11.
As of 1940 only 40% of farms were electrified, but the program continued and eventually there was a 98% success rate.
Among the successful California Cooperatives was the Surprise Valley Electrification Corp. which was formed in 1937. Other cooperatives still in place today are the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative, the Anza Electric Cooperative, and the Valley Electric Association, Inc.
Perhaps your family was involved in the forming of a co-op. The REA annually published a Report of The Rural Electrification Administration. There are snippets from these reports online, a search on WorldCat might help you locate them in a nearby library. These reports might supply details about emerging cooperatives. Look also for records of the cooperatives themselves in local archives, historical societies and cooperative headquarters.
Have fun watching the New Deal propaganda films for the REA:
Then learn more about the REA and their records at:
- OAC: Rural Electrification Administration;Holdings in OAC Repositories
- NARA.gov RG221 Guide to Federal Records
- History of California Electric Cooperatives
- New Deal: TVA Electricity for All
- You-Tube: Rural Electrification Administration Documentary