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WPA Posters Collection, Online at the Library of Congress

Posted by Laurie Frost on June 1, 2009

I keep hoping that the economic stimulus plan will include funding for the arts, but I haven’t seen any sign of this. In contrast, one of the legacies of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration are the iconic American photographs by Dorothea Lange [“Migrant Mother”], Arthur Rothstein [“Farmer and sons walking in the face of a dust storm”], Walker Evans, and others as employees of the Farm Security Administration, a New Deal Department of Agriculture agency, which means their works are in the public domain. You can see these here.

Once again we return to the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, this time to look at a few of the 907 WPA posters advertising events supported by Federal funding or created as public service announcements between 1936-1943. A brief history of arts funding in the WPA is provided as well. Many deal with health and World War II; others promote domestic tourism, using libraries, and so on. Here’s a sampling, with credits listed at the bottom of the post.

I love the vibrancy of these tourism posters:










A number of health posters urged testing for syphilis, sanitation, and safety:










Then there are these promoting arts events — exhibitions, plays, concerts, dance – all funded by the WPA:





















Here’s a tiny sampling of those about WWII:




Credits [artists are not listed for all posters]:

Cave. LC-USZC4-4243 (color film copy transparency). Artist: Alexander Dux

Puerto Rico: LC-USZC2-847 (color film copy slide), Artist: Frank S. Nicholson

Syphilis: LC-USZC2-5350, LC-USZC2-947

Art Institute: LC-USZC2-994. Artist: John Buczak

Concert: LC-USZC2-1111. Artist: Leslie Bryan Burroughs

Native Ground: LC-USZC2-5370. Artist: Emauel DeColas

Dance: LC-DIG-ppmsca-07144. Artist: Richard Halls

Disaster: LC-USZC4-5065. Artist: Phil von Phul

Visibility: LC-USZC2-5359

Salvage: LC-USZC2-1179


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