Officials viewing Grand Coulee Dam site, October 14, 1937

Officials viewing Grand Coulee Dam site, October 14, 1937.

The Great Depression first shattered the economy of Washington State, and then the New Deal rebuilt it. The New Deal left the country with roads, bridges, dams, and a new electric landscape that set the stage for rapid industrial growth. The Public Works Administration was a series of federal agencies formed out of Roosevelt’s “hundred days” of legislation following his 1933 inauguration, and one of the many things the New Deal had to offer. The PWA funded large-scale construction projects and provided skilled workers with jobs as well as reconstructing the social landscape for people and providing self-sufficiency and dignity to the many unemployed Americans. By the end of the 1930s, Washington was a different place, its future beginning to come bright even before World War II turned the state into an aerospace center and industrial powerhouse. Infrastructure was a tremendous undertaking, and was a major part of the New Deal. Rebuilding infrastructure in the U.S. was done with new railroads, renovation of public buildings, and new innovations in manufacturing.

While many facets of the New Deal’s impact on Washington State are worthy of exploration, there are a few specific questions that this exhibit addresses. How did public works enacted under the Roosevelt Administration in the wake of the Great Depression influence the social reconstruction of Washington? The New Deal saw a significant expansion of electricity and public utility resources to rural areas in the Pacific Northwest. What were the particular effects of dam construction and utility expansion on politics and life in the Pacific Northwest? How did legislation from the New Deal give labor unions and its people more rights in the work place? How did the New Deal legislation impact Washington State's agricultural sector? Finally, the 1930s and 1940s saw an expansion of American military power and presence on the world stage as a result of the Second World War. How did this expansion of American military power impact the infrustructure and culture of Washington State?


Figueroa, Mark; James, Claire; Kapuza, Josh; Skogen, Josiah; Webb Justin