NEVER BEFORE in the history of the human race has a public works program, whose principal object was the mitigation of need due to unemployment, reached the magnitude of the Work Projects Administration. This is true, however you measure it-- by persons employed, money expended, or volume of results.
Because of the deep and wide implications of this program on the evolving economic pattern of the United States, and upon the well-being of its inhabitants, it was a subject with which the Russell Sage Foundation, established "for the improvement of social and living conditions," necessarily found itself concerned.
Since 1936 Donald S. Howard, a member of the staff of the Charity Organization Department of the Foundation, has devoted the major portion of his time to the collection and study of material concerning the national relief policies, particularly those of the WPA; to consultation with administrators of these programs; and to independent field study. To this task he brought a background of seven years' experience in various forms of social work, the year preceding his coming to the Foundation having been spent as director of one of the area statistical offices of the WPA.
In 1940, with the material of his four years of research collected and digested, Mr. Howard began to write the present volume. The attempt to record a living and developing organization presents enormous difficulties, especially in the case of a program so subject to sudden change as has been that of the WPA. Its program has been in operation now for seven years and during all that time there has been no place where one can draw the line and say: "Here is the end of a definite phase; from this point on we can project the future course of events." Even while a chapter was being written, fresh information was coming in which might greatly modify what had been already set down.
The scholar concerned with past history has no such problems; he can collate, compare, deduce, and state his findings at leisure, untroubled by present events. Upon the contemporary historian lies the additional burden of keeping currently informed of daily