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WPA: Works Progress Administration/Work Projects Administration: Primary Sources: Archives & Records

Researching the WPA, a New Deal agency responsible for operating a wide variety of work-relief programs during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

WPA Records

Works Progress Administration Collection.
The Works Progress Administration papers collection includes information related to the history of Minnesota collected and prepared under the auspices of the Federal Writers' Project, administrative files, and a photo and negative collection containing numerous views of WPA projects around the state of Minnesota.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

  • Writers Project Research Notes
    The Minnesota Federal Writers' Project began in November, 1935. During its seven-year existence it issued a number of publications, including a state guide and several county and municipal histories. This series contains research notes, articles, drafts, and completed histories of counties, ethnic and nationality groups, Minnesota rivers, and miscellaneous subjects.
    MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid
  • Annals of Minnesota
    Compilation of the Annals of Minnesota was initiated by the Minnesota Federal Writers' Project in July, 1938. The project also was referred to as the Minnesota Annals and the Minnesota Newspaper Annals. Its purpose was to create a comprehensive reference file of historical information transcribed from articles published in Minnesota newspapers.
    MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid
  • Historical Records Survey
    Inventories of historical records existing in each county in Minnesota, prepared by WPA workers. In many instances, the worker also gathered information about the histories of the units assigned to them and prepared summaries of their findings.
    MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid
  • Administrative Files
    Includes letters, bulletins, speeches, numerous reports, and miscellaneous items.
    MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid
  • Works Project Administration Papers
    Material concerning various aspects of the history and archeology of Minnesota prepared by workers under the auspices of a WPA project. 
    MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid
  • Photographs and Negatives Collection
    Series provides numerous views of WPA projects around the state of Minnesota. In addition to views of WPA projects, several photographs compiled by the WPA for local histories are also included: some of these views date back to the 1860s. 85 of Minnesota's counties are represented in this collection with the heaviest emphasis on Ramsey and Hennepin counties.
    MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid
  • Work Projects Employees Files, 1930-1939
    Employment applications, personal record forms, and work records for persons employed by the Road Inventory Section under Work Projects Administration, Civil Works Administration, and State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA) funds; and bulletins and circulars issued by SERA on policies and procedures for work relief projects and personnel.
    MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (Highway Department: Planning and Programming Division).


Deborah Simmons Meader Papers, 1927-1942. 
Papers of a puppeteer, play writer, and theater fabricator employed in church and WPA puppetry programs during her life in St. Paul from 1927 to 1942. Meader’s papers relate her adoption of puppetry as a means of supporting her family during a period of financial hardship, her employment by the Minnesota WPA, and her writings about her puppetry. Papers include correspondence, articles and speeches, academic lecture notes, puppet and performance design notes, play scripts, and related materials.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Phil A. Lawrence Papers, 1936-1942.   
Photocopies of a scrapbook belonging to Lawrence, director of Minnesota’s Works Progress Administration Symphonic Band and many other local bands. The scrapbook contained letters of commendation, concert programs, and news clippings about the bands and the WPA Music Project.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P2684).

Douglas Alan Bruce Papers, 1933-1972.  
Mimeographed materials, booklets, campaign literature, clippings, and similar items collected by Bruce, a former member of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board.  Much of the collection relates to Elmer Benson’s (Farmer-Labor Party) 1938 Minnesota campaign for governor. Another substantial portion relates to the Minneapolis Central Council for the Unemployed, the Minneapolis Central Council of Workers, and organizer Karl Kuehn. Other activities documented include strikes by WPA workers & WPA teachers (1935,1939), and the People’s Lobby (1937).
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P1671). 

Minnesota Work Projects Administration Materials, 1935-1943, compiled by state administrator Sidney L.. Stolte.  
Typed reports and a scrapbook documenting the work of the Minnesota WPA. Stolte held various positions in the Minnesota WPA.and was the State Administrator from 1939 to 1943. The reports include the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners: The Story of W.P.A. and Other Federal Aid Projects in the Minneapolis Parks, Parkways, and Playgrounds (1937) and The Story of W.P.A. in the Minneapolis Parks, Parkways and Playgrounds (1938, 1941, 1942); Stolte’s:Final Report of the Minnesota Work Projects Administration (1943); and his scrapbook: "Persons and Events Affecting the Minnesota Work Projects Administration, 1935-1943" (1943). The Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners’ reports describe WPA work throughout the Minneapolis park system and improvements to the Minneapolis Municipal Airport (Wold-Chamberlain Field), with photographs. Stolte's scrapbook contains photographs of many people who  worked in the administration of the Minnesota WPA and photos documenting WPA projects throughout the state, as well as biographical articles about Stolte and his career with the Minnesota WPA.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P2555).

Records of the State Supervisor of Workers Education, 193- - 1940.  
Primarily research papers prepared for the Minnesota workers education program dealing with the following subjects: collective bargaining, history of American unions, labor journalism, cooperatives, mining industry in Minnesota, agricultural problems in Minnesota, timber industry in Minnesota, third party movements in Minnesota, the "social economy" of the United States, money, and wealth. The named authors are: Gordon Gilbertson, Alex Dim, Herman Erickson, Mauritz C. Erkkila, Jack Geller, Fred Grady, Roger Jones, Eino Krapu, Fred Natus, Ralph E. Turner, and Leonard Vogland. Correspondence, reports, curriculum materials, and labor play scripts of the state supervisor of workers education, Douglas Alan Bruce. Contains information about the Minneapolis Labor School; workers education in Minnesota, other midwestern states, and in the United States generally; the WPA workers strike (July 1939), and workers’ housing in rural (particularly southwestern) Minnesota. Hilda Smith of the Federal Works Agency, U.S. Work Projects Administration, is a primary correspondent. The labor play scripts are for puppet shows and short didactic plays, recitations, and choral readings concerning labor, unemployment, unions, capitalism, war and the role of workers in society. Includes scripts by Meridel LeSueur, Susan M. Shepherd, Louis Bunin.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P1730).

History, Legislation, Diagrams and Plats of Minneapolis Streets, Highways, Alleys, Building Blocks, and Suburban Developments Done by W.P.A. Projects, 1940-41.  
89 volumes, 205 maps.  
MNHS call number: BC8.1.E57

Stearns County Museum Project. 
U.S. Works Projects Administration, Minnesota.  4 boxes of typed articles on St Cloud, Sauk Centre, and 1,300 biographical sketches of Stearns County pioneers.

MNHS call number: BC8.1 .S65u.

Government Records

WPA and Relief Project Files, 193- - 195-, of the MN Executive Council.
Files on a variety of work relief, disaster relief, and conservation projects financed by the Executive Council, many with Works Progress Administration funds, and on related administrative and financial matters.  They include reforestation, lake restoration, flood and erosion control, dam construction, park improvement, weed control, and related conservation projects; construction or renovation of county and municipal buildings and public works, such as bridges, roads, courthouses, village halls, community centers, and sewerage plants; renovation to the State Capitol grounds and to several state buildings; payments of aid to college and high school students and to school districts; and provision of relief to victims of floods, drought, tornados, and other natural disasters and to disabled war veterans.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Books & Other Publications

"Salvaging Culture for the WPA," by Mabel S. Ulrich.
In Harper's Magazine, May 1939.
MNHS call number: AP2 .H3 v.178

Working on the WPA: Minnesota.  
News for WPA workers, 1937.
Minnesota : s.n., 1937.
MNHS call number: HD3890.M6 W57 1937

WPA Accomplishments/Works Progress Administration Accomplishments, Minnesota, 1935-1939, by Linus C. Glotzbach, administrator.
St. Paul, Minn. : The Administration, 1939]
MNHS call number: AP2 .H3 v.178

Achievements of the Minnesota Writers Project W.P.A. Manuscript: The Final Report, by Minnesota Federal Writers Project, 1943?
MNHS call number: F606.01 .W95

Publications of the Minnesota Works Progress Administration and the Minnesota Work Projects Administration
Collection of various publications issued by the Minnesota Works Progress Administration and the Minnesota Work Projects Administration, 1935-1942.
MNHS call number: Microfilm 717

Guides written by the Minnesota Federal Writers Project

  • Minnesota, A State Guide.
    Compiled and written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration -- sponsored by the Executive Council, State of Minnesota.
    New York, Viking Press, 1938.
    MNHS call number:  F604.1 .M558 1938
  • Minnesota, A State Guide. Revised Edition. 
    Compiled and written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration -- sponsored by the Executive Council, State of Minnesota.
    New York, Hastings House, 1954. 
    MNHS call number: F604.1 M558 1954
  • The WPA Guide to Minnesota (Reprint edition with new title & new introduction)
    St Paul, MHS Press, 1985, 2002.
    MNHS call number:  F604.2 W86 2002 also available for purchase.  
  • The Minnesota Arrowhead Country, compiled by workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the state of Minnesota; sponsored by the Minnesota Arrowhead Association, Inc.  Chicago, A. Whitman & Co., 1941. 
    MNHS call number. F614 .A7 M563 1941
  • The WPA guide to the Minnesota Arrowhead Country (Reprint edition with new title & new introduction) 
    St Paul, MHS Press, 2008.
    MNHS call number: F614.A7 M563 2008, also available for purchase
  • The Bohemian Flats, compiled by the workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the state of Minnesota; and sponsored by the Hennepin County Historical Society. 
    Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1941.
    MNHS call number: F613.M68 U626 1941
  • The Bohemian Flats (Reprint edition with a new introduction) 
    St. Paul, MHS Press, 1986.
    MNHS call number: F613.M68 U626 1986, also available for purchase
  • St .Cloud, Minnesota, the Granite City, Bids You Welcome, [S.L. Burke and C.S. Wright, editors]. 
    St. Cloud, Minn.: Greater St. Cloud Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Federal Writers Project, Works Progress Administration, 1936.
    MNHS call number: F612.S69 S23 1936


Minnesota W.P.A. in Action, by Carl Lindahl. 
MNHS call number: Map 6F G4141.G8 1934 .L5 or Digital Image

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