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United States Civil Works Administration

Identifier: 184

Scope and Contents

This collection contains a written narrative detailing the history of the United States Civil Works Administration (CWA) in Washington, DC, as well as 34 black-and-white photographs depicting CWA projects throughout the city in 1934. Following the initial report is a memorandum and table showing approved projects, estimated costs, and completion status.

The photographs in this collection most often show individuals or groups working on CWA projects, such as grading streets, painting, laying sewers, and repairing fences. Some photos show buildings, streets, and/or other locations that were part of a finished or in-progress CWA project. The majority of photographs are labeled with “CWA” or “EWA” and a corresponding number. Many of them are also embossed with the words, “Signal Corps US Army.”

The series is divided into two (2) series: I. Written Narrative and II. Photographs


  • Creation: 1934


Conditions Governing Use

There are no known restrictions on the use of the collection.

Biographical / Historical

The United States Civil Works Administration was a New Deal job-creation program that took place during the Great Depression in the years 1933-1934.

According to the historical report in the collection, the District of Columbia served as a local and state Civil Works Administration. Many of the jobs were construction-related, although there were also sewing, nursing, and clerical positions for women. A group within the administration, the Work Planning and Job Assignment Committee, planned the work relief projects that took place in DC. The Committee worked with clients such as Gallinger Hospital, Highway Department, National Training School for Boys, National Training School for Girls, Playground Department, Public Library, Sewer Division, Smithsonian Institution, Trees & Parking, US Navy Yard, and the Water Department.

The winter 1933-1934 was one of harsh conditions, which affected efficiency and caused project delays. The CWA program then shut down in March 1934, leaving many of the projects in DC incomplete. Still, the President of the Board of Commissioners at the time said that “in spite of all difficulties encountered in this project, very substantial and beneficial construction was carried out, and a very definite and beneficial effect was had upon the business and social conditions in the District of Columbia.”

The United States Civil Works Administration was later replaced with the Works Progress Administration.


0.25 Linear feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History

At one time, this collection was part of the DC Public Library Washingtoniana Division’s Cutter collection, which contains rare and unique late 18th to mid-20th century books and other materials. It was transferred from Cutter and accessioned as its own collection in 2000. Any prior provenance is undocumented and, therefore, unknown.

Processing Information

This collection was originally stored in a three-ring binder; the individual pages of the written narrative and photographs were each in a clear plastic sheet protector. The processor disassembled the binder by removing the paper and photographs from their original sheet protectors. The pages of the written narrative were placed together in an acid-free folder; the photographs were each covered with a clear archival sleeve and then placed in an acid-free folder, as well. All folders were stored in an archival box.

The following items were removed from the collection and discarded: original three-ring binder and original clear plastic sheet protectors.

United States Civil Works Administration Collection
A Guide to the United States Civil Works Administration Collection
Prepared by Julie Burns
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001