FDR’s Alphabet Soup: Records of the Great Depression

University of Southern California - Digital Library - WPA Land Use Collection

University of Southern California – Digital Library – WPA Land Use Collection

WPA Maps

Cath Madden Trindle

Among the collections at University of Southern California are the WPA Land use survey maps for the City of Los Angeles, 1933-1939.   

This collection of 345 maps covering 460 square miles tracked land usage including: residential, commercial, industrial, manufacturing, agricultural and vacant.  Each of these was broken down further.  For example agricultural land was shown as mixed, livestock, field crops, row crops, bush fruits, orchard, nursery, woodland, or farming.

This is one example of individualized projects that took place around the country.  Read newspapers of the time for clues on what might have been happening where your family lived.  Search the special collections of Universities, Historical Societies, County Archives, Libraries, etc. for materials created by those projects.

This series of articles and blogs is intended to point you in the right direction to do your own research.  There is a  wealth of records providing background material on the places where our families lived and perhaps on the programs in which they participated.  Some of the records at the National Archives which were not previously covered include:

69.8 Cartographic Records 1933-1940  Mostly published and blueprint city and county transportation, land, and census study maps resulting from various WPA projects

69.11 Still Pictures documenting the programs and activities of the Alphabet Soup Era 1922-44.  This collection of thousand of pictures includes aerial photos among its other treasures.

69.4.3 Records of the Division of Information. Collections include over 43000 photographs, more than 100 films, press releases, clippings and much more.  These include publications of the other Alphabet Soup Agencies.

69.4.4 Records of the Division of Engineering and Construction History: Created in December 1935 with the responsibility of planning and supervising construction projects for highways, airports, dams, and sanitation works.

69.5.7 Survey of the Federal Archives (RG 69.5.7)  Organized in January 1936 as Federal Project No. 4, with the National Archives as cooperating sponsor. Became part of Historical Records Survey, on a reduced basis, in June 1937. Terminated June 30, 1942. Along with correspondence and reports there are over 3000 photographs in the NARA collections. 

69.5.9 Records of the National Research Project (NRP)  studied industrial techniques than their effect on employment.  Collection includes photographs of workers and some housing situations.

 

This is the last of the series.  Watch the blog for reprints of the articles that were published in the CSGA Newsletter.

 

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FDR’s Alphabet Soup: Records of the Great Depression

The Federal Music Project (FMP)

1935-1940  69.5.3  

Cath Madden Trindle

Los Angeles Federal Music Project presents "The chocolate soldier" CA FAP

Los Angeles Federal Music Project presents “The chocolate soldier” CA FAP

The Federal Music Project was established in 1935 with Dr. Nikolai Sokoloff , formerly conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra (1919-1933) as the director.  He appointed a staff of five Regional Directors, twenty three State Directors, and five administrative staff.  In 1939, the FMP transitioned to the Works Progress Administration‘s Music Program which eventually was phased out in WWII

The goal of the Music Project was to both help musicians become self-supporting by providing  educational opportunities to improve and opportunities to perform as well as educate the public in appreciation of music through education and opportunity.  This was achieved by providing: 

  • Free or low cost concerts to promote music.
  • Lessons for adults who were underprivileged.
  • Musical education for children.  Most schools established their own music programs with help from the FMP.
  • A Composers Forum Laboratory.
  • Music Festivals throughout the country.
  • 34 new orchestras.  Among those established were five in California: Los Angeles Federal  #1 and #2; Federal Symphony of Northern California (San Francisco); San Bernardino Federal; and San Diego Federal
  • support for singers, dancers, vocal groups, and vocal producers.

Additionally, employees of the FMP researched American traditional music and folk songs, a practice now called ethnomusicology.  Among the resuts were studies on cowboy, creole, and negro music.

The Baton was published monthly in Los Angeles by the FMP detailing project activities and productions throughout California.  It is available on Internet Archives as part of the San Francisco Public Library Americana Collection.  Also available on Internet Archives is  Reminiscences of an American musicologist oral history transcript : Charles Seeger (1972).  Charles Seeger was the assistant director of the FMP.  His interest in musical culture were behind the research of American Music.  You might also find publications for other states FMPs online or in state and local repositories.

Library of Congress online collections include posters created for music productions. Most of the LOC collection of recorded U.S. Work Projects Administration Federal Music Project collection materials are not available online. They may be accessed in the Performing Arts Reading Room of the Library’s Music Division.  One exception is for the California Music Project which is a part of  American Memory.  

The  California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties  online collection includes 35 hours of recordings by 185 musicians this collection ” …was organized and directed by folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell for the Northern California Work Projects Administration. Sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, and cosponsored by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), this undertaking was one of the earliest ethnographic field projects to document European, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and English- and Spanish-language folk music in one region of the United States.” (1)  Digital offerings include not only the sound recordings, but also photographs, drawings, research materials and more. There is a wonderful collection of Portuguese materials.

NARA holdings include  Narrative reports of state activities, 1935-40. Reports relating to education, 1936-40; employment, 1936-40; performance and attendance, 1936-40; and American composers, 1936-38. Records relating to folk music, 1936-40; the Composers Forum Laboratory, 1935-40; music festivals, 1935-40; and music research, 1935-36, including cowboy, Creole, and Negro folk music. Programs and schedules, 1936-40. Press clippings, 1936-40. Subject file of correspondence, reports, and press releases, 1936-40. Records relating to Nikolai Sokoloff, director, FMP, 1935-39, and Harry L. Hewes, project supervisor, 1936-40. Scrapbooks relating to the FMP activities in New York City, 1936-41.

Wikipedia – Federal Music Project

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Projects

PROJECTS

I have been a bit remiss in checking for California projects on FamilySearch as we went for quite a long time without any.  But there is a project available on the indexing site now.  It is a collection of Alameda County Obituaries dated 1985-2006.  This is considered an intermediate project.  Read through the .pdf on Indexing Obituaries and Death Notices Projects before you get started.  It will answer a lot of questions you might otherwise have.

If you belong to the California Genealogical Society there is also an ongoing project involving indexing San Francisco Coroner’s Records.  Contact CGS for information on how to sign up for that project.

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Society Update

 

 

vote

Join the country’s genealogists as they sign the Bill of Rights for Genealogists.  Read more on the Legal Genealogist Blog:  We’re genealogists… and we vote

 

Orange Line

 California Genealogical & Historical Projects

Check out Orange County CA Genealogical Societies

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Index of Veterans Interred in Orange County, California

Weekly Blog Recommendation  Orange line 3

Sticking with Orange County….check out

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FDR’s Alphabet Soup: Records from the Great Depression

Cath Madden Trindle

WPA Federal Theatre Project

1935 – 1939 (NARA 69.5.4)

Federal Theatre Project presents "Festival of American dance" featuring "An American exodus"

Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of a “Festival of American Dance” featuring “An American Exodus” at the Alcazar, showing a man and a woman dancing. (LOC Collections)

The primary goal of the Federal Theatre Project was to implement the reemployment of theater workers who were on public relief rolls, including actors, directors, playwrights, designers, vaudeville artists, and stage technicians.  A secondary goal was to make theater a vital part of community life, an art form that would continue to function after the FTP program was completed.

Theater projects were set up in towns where a number of theater professionals were unemployed.  At its largest, the Federal Theatre Project employed around 12,700 people. Over 90% of these employees came from the relief rolls.

Ninety percent of the FTP appropriation had to be spent on wages. About fifty per cent of FTP personnel were actors. Others were writers, designers, theater musicians, dancers, stage hands, box office staff, ushers, maintenance workers, and the business personnel necessary to operate the program in a way that would meet government standards.  There were theater companies in some forty cities in twenty two states. In order to reach the more rural areas some of the companies toured.  Classic plays shared the stage with those newly written for the project, puppet shows, dance reviews, children’s theater, ethnic theater, foreign plays and more.

Among the largest theater companies was the one in Los Angeles.  San Francisco and San Diego also had companies.

Photographic Print from San Francisco production of Power. Finding Aid Box 1182.

The University of Southern California and UCLA both have collections of scripts and other items relating to the theater project in the Los Angeles area. San Francisco Public Library history room has items relating to the program on Treasure Island. UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library has photographs for SF Bay area productions.  Check the OAC for other materials available in California.

Collections at the National Archives include among other things: correspondence, staging blueprints, specifics on certain productions, over 25,000 photographs, drawings and paintings of costumes and set designs, and posters.

The Federal Theatre Project Collection (Finding Aid), housed in the Library of Congress’ Performing Arts Reading Room, contains correspondence, memoranda, play and radio scripts, reports, research studies, manuals, publications, bulletins, forms, lists, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, charts, costume and set designs, blueprints, posters, addressograph plates, photographs, negatives, slides, playbills, and other records documenting the role of the Federal Theatre Project in laying the groundwork during the New Deal years for much innovation in the theater. (LOC Guide – Federal Theatre Project).  American Memory – FTP.

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