During the Great Depression, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed a series of programs, laws, and other economic stimulants to help the country get back on its feet again. Roosevelt called this course of action the New Deal, and as part of the New Deal, Congress passed the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. This act was passed on 8 April 1935, created several government employment programs aimed at getting Americans working again.
One of the agencies created by the Act was the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The largest of the New Deal agencies, the WPA gave jobs to millions of Americans and put them to work building roads and bridges, constructing buildings, and working on other public works projects. Further, employees of the WPA spent time feeding hungry children and distributing goods such as clothing to needy families. This Emergency Relief Appropriation Act program also created literacy and arts programs, as well as media, arts, and drama programs. At one point, the WPA was the largest employer in the country.
The Federal Art Project was another arm of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act that fell under the auspices of the WPA. The primary goal of this project was to employ out-of-work artists to create posters and murals for non-governmental agencies such as schools or hospitals. This short-lived program put artists to work both creating art and researching it, as well as teaching it within the community.
Similarly, the Federal Art Project, another arm of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act under the auspices of the WPA, employed thousands of people to research and write. One major project was the creation of state guides to all the states in the U.S., as well as the territories of the time. These guides outlined the history, culture, and descriptions of both the state as a whole and the individual cities and towns. As the FWP progressed, some writing became political, as many felt left-wing views needed to be defended as right-wing criticism of Roosevelt's policies became prevalent.
As the country began pulling out of the Great Depression in the early 1940s, employees of the WPA started training for factory jobs instead of many of the other activities they had pursued for years. Since World War II was just beginning, the government thought this training would prepare the country for the strains being placed on factories. Eventually, as unemployment declined and the war effort ramped up, funding for the WPA was halted.