Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Andrew Morris




WPA, Schenectady, FDR, New York State, Great Depression


When President Roosevelt assumed office in March of 1933, he faced an unemployment rate of twenty-five percent, homelessness, and the malaise of a nation stuck in a deepening state of poverty. His solution, aimed at alleviating the circumstances resulting from the Great Depression, was to institute a series of economic programs known as the “New Deal.” Roosevelt proposed the creation of a variety of social welfare programs, including “work relief” that would provide government jobs for the unemployed. The best known program was the Works Progress Administration, or simply, the WPA, created in 1935. Through projects ranging from building roads and schools, constructing sewers and bridges, to the development of parks and playgrounds, the WPA provided much needed relief for the unemployed, and transformed the physical landscape of the nation. While significant research has been done on the New Deal and WPA’s impact on a national level, less has been done on the impact at the local level, and very little research has been conducted examining the WPA’s role and influence in the City of Schenectady. This thesis addresses that gap, and argues that the type of work performed by the WPA in Schenectady corresponded with state and national trends. In addition, attitudes in Schenectady toward work relief corresponded with state trends but diverged from national trends: nationally, Republicans generally opposed the WPA, while local Republicans found it politically advantageous to endorse the program.