The Works Progress Administration is perhaps best known for its efforts to repair and improve the nation's infrastructure while providing work for millions of victims of the Great Depression. In New Orleans, the WPA worked in partnership with the municipal government led by Mayor Robert S. Maestri and the members of the Commission Council. As the mayor stated in a 1938 report to the Council,
The Federal Government stands ready to make available to individual communities large sums providing only that the works which are undertaken are worthwhile and that the community itself is able to provide a reasonable amount of the total cost.
Typically, WPA funds were used to hire unemployed men and women who then used city equipment and materials for construction and rehabilitation projects or worked in city-owned (and private) facilities.WPA workers did indeed pave numerous streets, increase drainage capacity, and erect buildings in New Orleans, but they also provided a variety of social services to families and individuals throughout the city. Many of those services directly benefited thousands of children in and around New Orleans. WPA programs educated children, fed them, coached them in athletic activities, provided them with sorely needed health care and otherwise made it possible for them to be children.

WPA photographers documented the agency's services to children in considerable detail. But their images do more than tell us what WPA workers did--they also provide us with wonderful glimpses of childhood during a difficult period in our history. We have selected the photographs in this exhibit not so much for what they tell us about the WPA, but for what they tell us about the CHILDREN of the WPA. We hope that you, the viewer, whether in-house or online, enjoy them as much as we do.

The online version of this exhibit is organized around the various WPA projects represented by the photographs. Click on each link to see the kids.

For more about the WPA in the Crescent City see

This exhibit was designed and mounted by Irene Wainwright and Wayne Everard, archivists in the City Archives/Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library. It will remain on view in the Main Library through the month of August 2001. This online version will remain in NUTRIAS indefinitely.

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