New Deal Resources

Recommended Resources

Public Works Administration

A master list of all non-federal PWA projects in Colorado are found in Appendix B.  This list is organized alphabetically by city/county, and provides the name of the project and project number. This list does not indicate whether or not a project was completed or provide any other additional information.  It is necessary to research the project files at the National Archives or to review local sources such as historic newspapers for additional information.  The project files are located at the College Park, Maryland branch of the National Archives and Records Administration(NARA).  However, be aware that due to an illegal deposition in the 1940s, NARA only has the files for about a third of these projects on microfilm.  The project files are fairly large with a lot of extraneous information on subcontractors and bids.  A few of the files might contain copies of plans.  There are also several national books about the PWA which have photos and occasionally plans of the projects.  Some of the larger projects in Colorado are featured in these.  One book is available only at the National Archives, but copies of others can be checked out through the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries’ “Prospector” system.  Finally, since PWA projects were large and professionally designed, it may also be possible to find plans from the original architect/engineer.

Works Progress (Projects) Administration

Microfilm reels containing the index cards of all Colorado WPA projects, both construction and service projects, were purchased from NARA for this phase of the New Deal survey project. These represent the most complete listing of WPA projects in the state.  At the completion of all phases of the New Deal survey project, these reels will be made available to the public through the Stephen Hart Library, Colorado Historical Society.  The index cards are arranged by county and year, and contain a brief description of the project, application approval date, federal allotment of monies, the state WPA project number, and the Official Project (O.P.) number. Usually if a project was rescinded, or continued with another phase, a notation is handwritten on the card.

Further information about each individual WPA project can be found in the project files.  All of the microfilm reels containing copies of the project files were also purchased for this project, and will eventually be made available through the Stephen Hart Library.  However, there is presently no master index for the over 100 microfilm reels containing the project files.  At this point, it is still necessary to contact NARA to determine which microfilm reel contains a particular project file.  To do this, the Official Project (O.P.) number is critical; this number differs from the WPA project numbers that were typically referred to in newspapers of the period.  Copies of microfilm reels can also be purchased from NARA by the general public, and usually arrive within four to six weeks.

The quality of information found in the project files varies, at least in terms of information that is useful for completing a historic architectural inventory form.  The files generally contain an application which lists the project’s sponsor, federal and local budgets, amount spent on materials vs. labor, project supervisor, and who was responsible for the plans.  The latter may or may not be the actual designer.  The project files sometimes include a reference card saying “sea drawings folder” or “see plans.”  Unfortunately, the drawings no longer exist at the National Archives.  In rare instances, plans or drawings are included only in a few projects that were undergoing modifications.  Much of the rest of the data contained in construction project files is documentation of the man-hours and labor costs.  Occasionally some information regarding construction specifications may be included.  Geographical information which would aid in locating projects is almost non-existent.  As noted previously, for schools constructed in small towns, this does not generally pose a problem – one can usually find buildings such as these. However for roads, bridges, or conservation projects, the only geographical information might be a listing of the county.

Other factors which may hinder research of WPA projects is the fact that not all of the projects which are listed on index files have accompanying project files.  Somewhere along the way, the project folders were lost before they were microfilmed.  Furthermore, even though NARA states that all of the project files have corresponding index files, during the course of this project, this was not found to be the case.  Without an index card, there is presently no way to track down a project file on the microfilm.  It is hoped that future phases of this survey project will provide the manpower to completely index all of this information.

In addition to construction projects, the WPA sponsored service projects for various white collar professions.  Included were jobs for photographers, who were often put to work photographing WPA construction projects.  The Stephen Hart Library (CHS) and the Western Heritage and Genealogy Library at the Denver Public Library both contain  some WPA project photos in their collections.  They are mounted on cards and have additional information typed on them.  CHS will not allow copies to be made of these photos, but DPL will.  The National Archives (College Park) also has a collection of WPA photographs in their Still Photographs collection.  These are arranged by project type (e.g., schools, park shelters, or airports) as well as by state.  It appears that all of the photographs in the “Colorado” collection are duplicates of those found arranged by project type.  The photos are mounted on cards with a negative number and location, and copies can be ordered of these prints.  Most of these photographs were digitally copied for this project,and will be available through OAHP.

Civilian Conservation Corps

The Colorado State Archives has a number of CCC files, most of which deal with personnel information.  At the present time, there is a $3.00 fee to pull each box in addition to copying expenses.  Most of the boxes have an index that can be viewed prior to requesting the box pull,but not all of the indexes are accurate.  In addition to the personnel records, there are a few annual reports and camp newsletters which provide some information specific to the work completed by each camp.  A list of all of the CCC camps, their location, and federal supervising agency is in Appendix C.

At the National Archives, the CCC information is scattered at various branches.  The Denver Branch of the National Archives has most of the information of the CCC assigned to grazing division – the agency responsible for western Colorado.  The archives has an index for this collection.  Information about the camps in eastern Colorado, which were assigned to the Soil Conservation Service, are believed to be located at the Kansas City, Missouri branch of the National Archives.  This collection will require additional research, as this branch was not visited during the first phase of this survey project.  There are already a number of completed surveys about CCC work in the mountains, particularly for those camps assigned to the National Park Service and Forest Service.  The federal agencies or the OAHP has copies of most of the inventory forms and survey reports.

Civil Works Administration

CWA project files are available on microfilm from the National Archives in College Park.  The ten reels, which are arranged by county, were also purchased for research purposes in this project and will be made available at the Stephen Hart Library.  The information in the CWA project files are similar to the WPA files, and do not generally contain any plans.  There is presently no main index for CWA projects.

Federal Art Project/Treasury Relief Art Project

The art work of the New Deal was completed in buildings located primarily on the front range and western portion of Colorado.  A masters thesis by Ronald Bruner, “New Deal Art Works in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska (1979), purports to list all of the works completed in Colorado,specifically building murals.  It may not be a complete list for easel works, however.

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