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These 1930s Programs Put Thousands Of Iowans To Work

Associated Press
The Work Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. were among the programs that employed thousands of Iowans during the Great Depression.

While schools are closed, we're creating a series of "Talk of Iowa" episodes that will be fun and educational for learners of all ages.Every Tuesday, we'll learn about Iowa wildlife, and every Thursday, we'll learn about Iowa history.  

The stock market crash of 1929 followed by the devastation of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s plunged the United States into the Great Depression. Facing an almost 25 percent unemployment rate at the start of his presidency, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the “New Deal,” a series of programs designed to get people back to work.

During this episode of Talk of Iowa, historians Tom Morain and Tim Walch will explore the vision behind the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Both programs employed many Iowans, but they also left lasting marks on the landscape and culture of our state. Morain is the director of government relations at Graceland University and former director of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Walch is emeritus director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.


  • New Deal - A series of programs, financial reforms, regulations and public work projects created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939.
  • Works Progress Administration - A "New Deal" era work-relief program, which employed more than 8.5 million people at an average monthly salary of $41.57 to build bridges, airports, public parks and other public spaces. 
  • Civilian Conservation Corps - A program providing jobs for young, unempoyed men during the Great Depression including forest management, flood control and the development of state and national parks. 

Discussion questions:

  • Have you ever seen work done by members of the CCC or the WPA at a state park or post office?
  • What do you think Iowa’s state parks would be like today if the CCC had never existed?
  • Would you rather have worked for the CCC or the WPA? What kind of work do you think you would have liked to do?
  • Can you think of any modern organizations that might have been inspired by the CCC or WPA?

Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa